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Can you do 12 stones?

Each new year I encourage my kids to remember milestones in their lives thru a Twelve Stone tradition Joshua 4:1-8. We choose 12 rocks from our yard and place them in A row and aided by journals and calendars we each made lists of ways we have seen God working in our lives during the past 12 months. My kids faces lit up as we picked up one stone at a time and shared our recollections, intentionally remembering how God had answered prayers guiding our family through the new year.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have trouble remembering 12 stone worthy events from the past 12 months! I am not proud to admit it, but it is true.   The last time I made my 12 stone list, I had just gone thru 5 years of severe caregiving, three funerals, and my own health crisis. I had lots of good material to choose from!

But the last couple of years, life has slowed down into a comfortable routine. There have been few and minimal crisis in the family. So finding 12 Stone worthy events is much harder.

It seems that in the “good times” I seem to sort of forget about God or at best take Him for granted.

How about you? How full is your “Thank” meter?

Our Speech

Our Speech
by Chuck Swindoll

Colossians 4:5-6

MR PIGS . . . MR NOT PIGS . . . OSAR . . . CM PENZ . . . LIB . . . MR PIGS.

Okay, give it a whirl. Read all those words again and translate. If you can—I can tell you what part of the country you’re from. Your speech will betray you . . . it does every time.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was talking with a group of visitors following a morning service. Several were from different sections of our nation. All, of course, spoke English, but a few possessed a distinct dialect that revealed their roots. I had a little fun by looking at them and asking things like, “When did you move from New York?” or “How long has it been since you left New England?” Both guesses were correct.

I had the most fun with a couple from Noth Cawline-ah (emphasis on “line”). I missed and guessed Geow-gha . . . and they were flabbergasted that I’d have the nerve to put ’em in that camp. I mean, after all!

But it’s the Texan and Oklahoman that I get the biggest kick out of. Uh, ‘scuse me, I shoulda said git. Unless yore raised duwn thar or have Walt Garrison nearby as a translator, you need a glossary of terms to carry witcha:

Spoken Written
May-on Man
Eggs-it Exit
Thang Thing
Ray-inch Ranch
Far Fire
Day-ins Dance
Bob war Barbed wire
Gittin sum hep Getting some help
Harney toe Horned toad
Awl beniss Oil business
Fixin’ta Getting ready
Ornj drank Orange drink
Sherf Sheriff
Frog strangler Big rain storm

 

It helps to have a pinch ‘tween your cheek ‘n’ gums . . . then those words kinda tumble outa your mouth real natural. Good ole boys readin’ this ain’t laughin’ ’cause we’re the ones who talk funny. Like they’d have no trouble a’tall with that exam I started with:

MR PIGS . . . “em are pigs.” MR NOT PIGS “em are not pigs!” OSAR . . . “Oh, yes, ‘ey are.” CM PENZ . . . “See ’em pens?” . . . LIB . . . “ul be!” MR PIGS . . . “em are pigs!”

I had a guy tell me that that is part of the entrance exam into Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A & M. Why not? If ya cain’t read plain ole American stuff, you ain’t got no beniss goin’ on to college! I better stop this nonsense or we’ll never git through.

We can dress up, move away, run with another crowd, and try to keep our roots a secret, but our speech won’t cooperate. There it is, plain as day for all to hear. Remember? That’s what happened to Peter. Backsliding at breakneck speed, the once-loyal disciple tried to fake it by the fire that night they arrested Jesus. But a girl pointed him out. Picture the scene as Mark records it:

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (Mark 14:66–70 NIV)

He could hide his face, but not his speech. His Galilean “drawl” was clearly distinguishable, even in the wee hours of the morning. So what did he do to convince his accusers otherwise? The next verse answers that question:

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Galilean or Judean . . . now it didn’t matter. He spoke words they all understood. Profanity blurted out publicly in any language or dialect makes it clear—even to total strangers—that the one swearing lives at a distance from the living God. Amazing . . . not another person in the crowd that night accused Peter any further. His street speech was sufficiently convincing.

Nobody ever said it better than the teacher from Tarsus:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)

Looking for ways to make your witness more gracious, more winsome? Interested in communicating Christ’s love and in building bridges that attract others to Him? Start with your speech . . . and don’t worry if folks can guess what part of the country you’re from. It’s when they would never guess you are a Christian that you’ve got something to worry about.

Lookalikes

Lookalikes | Our Daily Bread(5/24/2017)

As we “contemplate the Lord’s glory,” by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we can grow more and more like Him. What an amazing thing it would be if people could observe us and say, “I see Jesus in you”!

Lord, help us to gaze on You, to study You, to know You. Transform us into Your image by what we say, how we love others, and how we worship You. May others see Jesus in us.

Love is the family resemblance the world should see in followers of Christ.

INSIGHT:

After having communed with God for some eighty days and nights (Ex. 24:18; 34:28), Moses’s face shone, reflecting and radiating the holiness and glory of God (34:29–35).

When he came down from Mt. Sinai with the law, the people were afraid to come near him. Thereafter, Moses wore a veil over his face, seemingly to protect the Israelites from prolonged exposure to God’s glorious holiness. Thousands of years later, the apostle Paul adds that Moses veiled himself to prevent the Israelites from seeing that this glory was fading away (2 Cor. 3:13).

Using Moses’s experience, Paul reminds us of the great privilege Christians have today. Just as Moses was able to enter God’s holy presence without the veil (Ex. 34:34–35), anyone who believes in Jesus also has this privilege (2 Cor. 3:14, 16). The Holy Spirit gives us unencumbered and unrestricted access into God’s holy presence (v. 17) and will enable us to “see and reflect the glory of the Lord, [making] us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (v. 18 NLT).

In what ways are you like your heavenly Father? How is exposure to God’s holiness through His Word changing you to look more like Christ?

By Dave Branon

Be Careful to Whom You Listen

Be careful to whom you listen

I was reading an article the other day and suddenly was compelled to open up the Bible and check out the scripture reference.   What I found is that the author had quoted the Scripture word for word, but I am not sure it should be. The verse was Job 36:11… If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures

This was presented as a promise of God. A promise to the believer. But upon closer study, I am not sure this is a quote we should hang onto. Why? Keep reading.

Job Chapter 36 (Elihu Extols God’s Greatness)  “Bear with me a little, and I will show you, for I have yet something to say on God’s behalf. I will get my knowledge from afar and ascribe righteousness to my Maker.   For truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you. … If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures

Now read what God has to say about the “Wisdom” found in the previous chapter.

Job Chapter 37  “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”

 God Himself said that Job 36:11 was words without knowledge! I don’t really think I want to make that one of my memory verses! I don’t think that the idea or truth of Job 36:11 is one I want to put into my belief system.

We need to be careful when we accept scripture quotes. Often they are taken out of context and/or omit a significant part, that when included, offers a totally different meaning. Yes they sound good, but are they really what God meant?

 

Let God Take Control

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, control is “to have power over” something. As humans, we love to have control over the things that we do . We love to have a plan. We have grown up hearing advice like this: “You can do anything you set your mind to do!” “Follow your heart!”

Nevertheless, when things don’t go the way we’ve planned, we can f eel disappointed, unfulfilled, anxious , sad— even angry. We might have pictured our lives differently than they’ve turned out to be.

But what does the Bible say about control? Are we called to carefully determine every detail of our lives, and expect them to come true? Are we called to strive for a planned life? Not quite.

I. Let Go.

For Christians, the process does no t start with our “plans” o r desires. We are called to deny ourselves.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24

2. (Fully) Obey

Often times God tells us to do things that don’t seem logical, o r normal! Sometimes He commands us to take a plunge at something we are completely new to . It can be scary! Nonetheless, whenever God tells you to do something, do it. Be diligent. Follow through.

It can be something as simple as praying and reading your Bible each morning to something as radical as leaving your job or serving as a missionary in a faraway country. Whichever the case, don’t try t o find a middle ground between your current desires and God’s will. Half obedience is disobedience. In the Bible, we can see what can happen if we don’t obey God. The result isn’t pretty.

In 1 Samuel, God told Saul (a young man whom the Israelites chose as king) to destroy the Amalekites and their possessions. Saul did!…sort of . He kept all the sheep and oxen, instead of getting rid of them, as God had commanded him. He did not follow God’s word all the way.

To make it worse, instead o f acknowledging that he had – indeed- disobeyed, Saul started justifying his actions. Saul said to him “…I have performed the commandment of the Lord!”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me!

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He also has rejected you from being king.”

Ouch. Saul’s acts o f disobedience cost him his crown. Often times we hinder God’s blessings for our lives because o f this one thing. Obedience is key! Either we are following the Lord, or we are not.

Is there anything God has told you to do that you’ve been “half ” obeying?

3. Expect warfare

The Christian life is perfect! NOT. Contrary to popular belief , we are actually called to expect trials and warfare.

As we get closer to God, we are a bigger threat to the enemy, so he’s going to do anything possible to make us fall.

1 Peter 5:8 says “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

If we are not strong with Christ, life’s circumstances will take us off guard and can knock us off our feet. Nevertheless, if we cling to God, He holds us:

“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- 24

We are called to be vigilant; to remain constantly in prayer, read the Word and get together with other believers.

We have to seek Him daily! Don’t trust in yourself . If things are going good, don’t lay back. Don’t get comfortable.

“Therefore let him that thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall“ 1 Corinthians 10:12

The good part? God promises to give us peace in the midst of trials and uncertainty:

“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

4. Don’t compare yourself to others

Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:21- 22

Peter was asking Jesus about John.

Jesus’ response? “That does not concern you! Just follow me!” How often are we like this! We see other people being successful at different areas o f their lives and we start asking the Lord: “what about me?”

5. Don’t doubt God’s ability to take care of you

Often times, we look at our circumstances and we get anxious if things don’t go as planned.

Not knowing or being certain of our future can also be a factor that is the start of worries in our minds. We find it hard to trust God is in control of our lives. We don’t have peace.

Yet, when we commit our lives to Christ, He commands us to do this one thing: “Be still and know that I am God….” Psalm 46:10

This anxiety that we feel stems from one very determining thing: we doubt God’s ability to take care of us.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future .”

Do you believe this to be true? Is your vision of God hindering your ability to trust in Him and let go?

God knows what you need, and when you need it. Trust that He will take care of you! He is able.

6. Rid yourself of presumptions, “what if ’s”, and what you think “should” happen

“Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp.” Numbers 14:44

In Numbers, we can see that when God told the people o f Israel to conquer the land, they doubted. They were afraid, so they didn’t do it. They didn’t embrace God’s plan for them. They didn’t trust God would take care of them. They assumed control.

Later, they regretted it, but it was too late to go . It wasn’t God’s time or way anymore, yet they presumed they could still do it. Even when God warned He would not be with them, they trusted in their strength and tried to conquer the land. They lost that battle.

Often times we presume that things should go a certain way. We think: “If God was with me, this shouldn’t have happened!” “If this was truly God’s will, this and that should have happened by now!”

Nevertheless, God sees the bigger picture. He sees the purpose for every little detail in your life. Whenever you start assuming or over- thinking details in your life, look to His promises. God tells us:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.“ Isaiah 55:8- 9

We need to get rid of presumptions, “what if ’s” and over- thinking. We need to let go and not be anxious. God’s in control. He has your best interest.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace o f God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6- 7

That being said, seek Him continuously.

Read the Bible.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” 2 Timothy 3:16- 17

Pray.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…” Ephesians 6:18. “Pray without ceasing“ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Sometimes, Go d will call us to retreat – to go away from our daily routines and seek Him.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me there, and He said to me, ‘Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.’” Ezekiel 3:22

Don’t get too busy. Like the popular saying goes: If you’re too busy to spend time with God, you’re too busy.

It’s Not About You!

It’s Not About You!
by Chuck Swindoll

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I need to underscore a foundational fact: God’s goal is not to make sure you’re happy. No matter how hard it is for you to believe this, it’s time to do so. Life is not about your being comfortable and happy and successful and pain free. It’s about becoming the man or woman God has called you to be. Unfortunately, we will rarely hear that message proclaimed today. All the more reason for me to say it again: Life is not about you! It’s about God.

How can I say that with assurance? Because of Paul’s response: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9–10). That’s it! He got it too. And he went with it for the rest of his days.

When you and I boast of our strengths, we get the credit, and we keep going under our own head of steam. But when we boast in what He is doing in the midst of our brokenness, inability, and inadequacy, Christ comes to the front. His strength comes to our rescue. He is honored.

Don’t miss that point. The very things we dread and run from in our lives are precisely what brought contentment to Paul. Look at the list: I am content when I lose. I am content when I am weak. I am content with insults. I am content when I’m slandered. I am content in distresses. I am content with persecutions. I am content with difficulties and pressures that are so tight I can hardly turn around. Why? “Because when I am weak then I’m strong.” Knowing that brought the apostle, ablaze with the flaming oracles of heaven, to his knees. What a way to live your life—content in everything—knowing that divine strength comes when human weakness is evident.

That’s what gave the man of grace true grit. It will do the same for us.

 

 

Give God Your Worries

by Chuck Swindoll

Isaiah 50:10

Let’s get six words clearly fixed in our minds. These six words form the foundation of God’s therapeutic process for all worrywarts.

WORRY ABOUT NOTHING,
PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING

What qualifies as a worry? Anything that drains your tank of joy—something you cannot change, something you are not responsible for, something you are unable to control, something (or someone) that frightens and torments you, agitates you, keeps you awake when you should be asleep.

All of that now needs to be switched from your worry list to your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God . . . .

Tell Him you will no longer keep your anxiety to yourself . . . .

The more you practice giving your mental burdens to the Lord, the more exciting it gets to see how God will handle the things that are impossible for you to do anything about.

ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE

Romans 10:1-3

I have known many people who have not obeyed the gospel. I’ve known many people who were involved in some denominational religious practice but they were not obeying the teaching of Christ. In some of these people there is a sincerity, a zeal and emotion for religion that is obvious. They are moved by religious ceremony. They have an obvious interest in some aspects of bible teaching. They give generously of their money and time. It simply cannot be denied there is a peculiar passion and zeal they have for and about their religious life. The problem is, they are not continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. In fact, they may be tied to a human creed, with the deadly allegiance to man creeds involve and promote.

Here’s what the apostle Paul said about this in Romans 10:1-3…

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

THEIR CONDITION…

…is described as having ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE.

Paul had no doubt about their sincerity, their emotion and enthusiasm about God. He knew what he was talking about. Because he himself, before obeying the gospel, was extremely zealous! In his career as a militant, Pharisee & persecutor of the church – he proved himself to have extraordinary zeal for what he believed was right.

Gal. 1:14 – he said he was “more exceedingly zealous.” In Phil. 3:6 – “concerning zeal, persecuting the church.” In Acts 22:3 – “zealous toward God.” Paul expressed no doubt about their sincerity, emotion and enthusiasm — he knew their condition, because he had been there.

They had zeal. There was a fervency and passion about their religious beliefs and behavior. Josephus said “They had a zeal for God … over and above the requirements of the Law.

THEIR CONDEMNATION…

WAS THAT THEY WERE NOT SUBMITTING TO GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS!

Strange how people think sometimes. Here are people who believe in God, say they want to obey God and they demonstrate sincerity, zeal and passion for God. But instead of submitting to God’s plan, they come up with their own plan. Instead of obeying God, they obey men. Instead of respecting and obeying the Word of God, they respect and obey the doctrines and commandments of men.

You see, it is possible to be sincere, zealous, even militant and passionate about God and religion, and yet be lost… because we are not submitting to the righteous plan and will of God.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

The order should be: Knowledge –> submitting to the righteousness of God, and then –> Zeal. Each of us should have zeal — perhaps more than we presently have — but it must always be based on the knowledge of God’s will and our submission to Him.

Not an Orphan

JOHN 14:18 NIV 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

You are not facing life all alone — no matter how you feel.

Jesus is with you. He promised to never forsake you.

Our enemy loves to make us think we have no help, that God does not care, and we have no hope. But the devil is a liar.

“But why does God allow things to look so bleak? Why doesn’t He help me sooner?”

God desires faith and trust from us. Without testing times we would have no opportunity to show our faith. Without obstacles we would have nothing to overcome.

We must always remember that God is raising a family, preparing us for eternity with Him. It can be a great error to judge everything by “the bottom line” today.

We must trust our Father God, because only He really knows what the “true bottom line” is. And we can trust Him, because He is good and trustworthy.

SAY THIS: Thank you Father God that I am not facing life all alone — as an orphan. You are my Father and are taking good care of me. I trust You — for time and eternity.

Faith and Fleeces

Judges 6:38-40 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised–look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew–a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

The expression “putting out a fleece” comes to us from the biblical story of Gideon. Gideon was one of the leaders that God raised up to direct His people during the period of the Judges in the early days of Israel’s history. During a time of invasion by the armies of Midian, God called Gideon to rally the Israeli troops and defeat the foreign invaders. Before Gideon would commit himself to battle, however, he wanted to be sure that God was going to give Israel the victory! In Judges 6:36-40 we see that Gideon asked God to make a fleece of wool wet with dew on one morning, then totally dry on the next morning. The fleece was to be the sign that God would definitely rescue Israel from the Midianites. God gave Gideon the sign that he asked for, and Gideon then went out and defeated the forces of Midian.

Should we follow the example of Gideon and “set out fleeces”? Does Judges 6 teach us that it’s a good idea to ask God for signs of His approval, either of our plans or a decision that we think might be His will? How far do we carry this practice of putting out fleeces? Are fleeces reserved only for special occasions or should we expect God to give us signs every day? Is “putting out a fleece” evidence of a mature faith or an immature faith? Is our faith strengthened by fleeces or is it better not to ask God for signs?

These questions–as well as many others–come to mind as we read the account of Gideon. We know from Romans 15:4 that this Old Testament portion of Scripture was written and included in God’s Word for our instruction. There are many great lessons for the Christian in the overall account of Gideon, but what is the lesson God wants us to learn from “the fleece event?”

Before we look at the textual evidence for the quality of Gideon’s faith, let us remind ourselves of one of the important principles of interpreting Scripture: the narrative is always subject to the didactic. That is, the accounts of historical events recorded in the Bible are always subject to the straight-forward teaching passages of the Bible, and we must always distinguish between what did happen from what should happen when we read Scripture. For example, in Genesis 12:10-20, the fact that the Bible tells us that Abraham lied about his wife and put her in danger in order to protect his own life should not be interpreted to mean that it’s OK for us to lie and put our family members in danger when we think our own life is at stake!

In the same way, the story of Gideon and the fleece is an account of what did happen, but it is not necessarily what should happen. We need to look at the context of the Gideon narrative and see whether Gideon’s actions were the actions of a strong, mature faith or a weak, immature faith. We must ask ourselves if the overall context of the narrative teaches us that we should follow or avoid the actions of the character in the narrative. And we must consider the rest of the Bible and see if there are any straight-forward teaching passages that touch on the subject of “putting out fleeces” and asking God for signs.

Twice in the Book of Matthew the Lord Jesus taught that asking for signs was not a commendable attitude towards God (12:39 and 16:4). In fact, He said on both occasions that “an evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign.” Obviously, the motives behind an evil and adulterous generation seeking a sign from God would be different from the motives of a believer wanting a sign from God. However, the Bible indicates that even a believer is evidencing an immature faith when he needs signs.

Remember that our Lord rebuked the lack of faith of “doubting Thomas” with the statement, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). We could say, then, that the rule of thumb for the growing Christian should be, “We walk by faith and not by fleeces!” Or, to quote 1 Corinthians 5:7 properly, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” So we see that the straight-forward teaching passages which bear on the subject of asking for signs would tend to indicate that setting out fleeces is not the most mature expression of faith or pleasing response of faith towards God.

When we look at the story of Gideon (what did happen) in light of these teaching passages (what should happen), it becomes clear to us exactly what the fleece event illustrates. Gideon was not operating on the basis of a strong and secure faith, but rather on the basis of a weak and insecure faith. When Gideon asked God for a sign it was after God had already promised Gideon, in no uncertain terms, that He would rescue Israel from the Midianites. The Lord first commissioned Gideon to go and defeat the Midianites: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (6:14). Then the Lord promised Gideon that he would be with him and he would definitely defeat the Midianites: “I will be with you, and you will strike down the Midianites as if they were but one man.” (6:16).

Furthermore, God had already given Gideon a confirming sign in the way He had responded to Gideon’s sacrifice! “Miraculous” fire, indicating God’s acceptance of Gideon and his offering, consumed the sacrifice that Gideon brought. What further evidence did Gideon need to know that the God of Israel was eager to give Gideon a complete victory over the Midianites? And yet Gideon had the audacity to say to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as you have promised…” (6:36).

How disappointing–and yet how very familiar! So often we, like Gideon, doubt the very promises that God has given us in black-and-white Scripture! Why, for example, do we risk stress-related physical problems when we have clearly been told to “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)?

The fact that we’ve all put out fleeces and maybe even seen God answer with “miraculous” signs does not mean that God is pleased with this approach in our walk of faith. Just as parents will sometimes accommodate themselves to their young children’s clinging and fearful requests for assurance or affirmation, so God acquiesces at times to the requests of our feeble faith. But parents want their children to mature to the point where they don’t need continual reassurance or unusual demonstrations of affirmation!

In the same way, God wants His children to grow in faith to the point where we don’t need to put out fleeces and ask for signs. The point is not that the story of Gideon is teaching that it is wrong to put out fleeces or that it is wrong to ask God for signs, but that the account of Gideon and the fleece is included in Scripture to show us that it is the unsure, wavering faith that desires signs and it is usually the timid, immature believer who sets out fleeces. However, a very encouraging lesson that we don’t want to miss in the story of Gideon and the fleece is that God tolerates our lack of faith and continues to work with us in spite of our immature faith. He may even give us the signs we ask for in order to bolster our weak faith!

Although it is clear from the Scripture that Gideon was not a giant in faith, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that he did have genuine faith. While he didn’t have a bold faith like some of the other Old Testament heroes, it must be stressed that Gideon was not without faith. When God told Gideon to tear down his father’s pagan altar, by faith Gideon obeyed (6:25-27). Because he was too afraid to do the job by day, he did it by night. But he did it! Faith does not have to be bold to be genuine. How encouraging for us who are so often midgets in faith!

Again we see Gideon fearful right before the battle, needing a dream to encourage him to step out in faith (7:9-15). But God knew all about Gideon’s weak faith, and after stating categorically once again that Gideon would defeat the Midianites (7:9), He said to Gideon, “If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp” (7:10-11). How gracious God is! God’s amazing tolerance and His accommodation to the weak faith of Gideon (who put more stock in a Midianite’s dream than in the explicit Word of the Lord!) shows us the extent of His grace to those of little faith! What an encouragement for us who so often, like Gideon, become more courageous by seeing “proofs” than by simply believing the promises of God’s Word. But, praise God, “He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). The fact that Gideon made it into God’s “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11:32), in spite of his shortcomings, shows us that from God’s perspective the fact of our faith is ultimately more important than the strength of our faith! All of this encouragement for us, however, is not the stamp of God’s approval on fleece setting or weak, timid faith!

Not only is the practice of setting out fleeces an indication of an immature faith, but it has some built-in problems associated with it. One problem is that you can never be really sure with a fleece! Suppose you ask God for a sign from heaven in order to know if you should go on a certain trip or continue a certain relationship, and three days later you see a shooting star! “Wow!” you say. But then you begin to wonder, “Was that a sign from God or just a coincidence?” So what do you do next? Chances are that you’ll do exactly what Gideon did–you’ll “tighten the boundaries” on the sign to be really sure. “Lord, may I see three shooting stars in the northern sky in the next 48 hours, if my decision is Your will!” But can you ever put out enough fleeces to be 100 per cent sure? And where does faith end and manipulation of God begin?

Tightening the boundaries leads to another built-in problem. Fleece-setting may not be wrong but it comes dangerously close to testing the Lord, which definitely is wrong. When the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Christ for a sign the Scripture says that they tested Him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). The Bible explicitly teaches that putting God to the test is a sin. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). If you walk across an Interstate highway and expect not to get hit by a truck because God promises to protect us, that’s testing God!

A Christian who puts out a fleece and asks God for a sign isn’t exactly putting God to the test, but when we begin to tighten the boundaries on the signs we request we’re moving in that direction. If we ask the Lord to, “Make the phone ring by noon tomorrow if You want me to take that new job (or move to that new location),” we’ve really boxed God in–into a box of our making! We have set the conditions and we are forcing God to confirm His will for us on our terms! Doesn’t this come perilously close to testing God? The more we tighten the boundaries to force God’s hand, the closer we come to the “Interstate” illustration. How much better to use the normal means that God has given us to make decisions (primarily the guidelines of Scripture–including sanctified common sense!), and then ask God to confirm our decisions or guide us to different decisions in ways of His own choosing.

Asking God to confirm our decisions without restricting Him to doing it our way is not the same as setting out a fleece. To request that the Lord show us in some clear way if we’ve made or are about to make a decision that is not in accordance with His will is not the same as demanding a particular sign from God. The Lord does not play games with us. He desires that we make right decisions, and He delights to confirm us in these decisions! We do not have to put out fleeces to remind our heavenly Father that His well-loved and intimately known children need His perfect confirmation in their walk of faith. We really can trust His promise: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).