It’s Like The Weather!

Even though our culture changes more than our weather, inside we are to be the same people–Followers Of Jesus!

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One day you go to the closet and get a jacket. The next day you leave the jacket in the closet. The following day you’re looking for your flip-flops. We call this “The Weather” in an Alabama typical fall week. This is one of the unique “pleasures” of living in Alabama–to experience all 4 seasons in one week. Sometimes we get to experience at least 3 seasons in one day!

The above screenshot is today’s forecast for us here in scenic Fayette County. Here, allow me to show you the rest of today’s temperatures:

Yep, 62 degrees right now. And this time tomorrow it will be 33 degrees. Some of us Alabamians keep a change of clothes in our vehicle for such a time as this. If you see a car with Alabama license plates and there are extra clothes in the backseat–we’re not homeless; we’re just prepared for today’s weather. And as I was thinking about our weather here, The Spirit put another thought in my head:

Even though our culture changes more than our weather, inside we are to be the same people–Followers Of Jesus!

Too many who bear the name of Christ, are looking for an environment that makes it easy to share their faith. Well, guess what Buttercup! Sometimes it IS easy to share our faith. But most times . . . it’s not so easy. Sure, who wouldn’t want to share their faith when it’s 78 degrees with a relative humidity of 10 percent. I find those kinds of weather days in Alabama extremely rare–even rarer are those kinds of days in real life with real people and real situations. So, what do you do?

You dress appropriately. Not just for the weather, but for life. Though the outside circumstances each day change like the weather in Alabama, we are to remain the same inside. It’s hard around here to decide how to dress for the weather many times. But it’s simple, not easy–but simple–to know how the dress for our culture and environment. Here is the ageless “fashion wear” of God:

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Colossians 3:12-17 (The Message)

If you are a serious follower of Jesus, then you know you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. The Spirit is God’s Fashion Consultant for you, and He will always provide you the perfect attire, whatever the “weather” is like outside. The Fashion Attire God provides for serious Followers of Jesus is always perfect–even if the weather changes like it does here in Sweet Home Alabama!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

The Inconvenient Jesus

‘Convenient Jesus’ doesn’t exist–never has–never will.  Whether one is of the ilk of Tenured Pew Sitters or the ilk of Progressives, Jesus is anything but convenient. 

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Being “in the country” means sometimes you have to go the distance to find what you are looking for. Now, understand that I model the example of buying locally as much as possible. But sometimes . . . you have to go the distance. We frequently have to go north of here to see some of our doctors, and most importantly, to go see Dad. In one of these paths I inevitably have to stop at this particular convenience store; “have to” being the operative word.

You see, I have an enormous love for coffee, and I have to take a little “fluid pill” prescribed by my doctor to help with my blood pressure. Well, if you love coffee and have to take one of those demon pills–then you understand why I “have to” stop there. And out of respect for that business owner, I do purchase something for the convenience of their restroom. Now, to my gripe.

The first time I stopped there, I was in shock. This is a southern convenience store and to my horror and deep disappointment, they were no where to be seen. My heart sank and a gloomy cloud formed over my mind. My heart and mind were set on, and wanted one of these southern delicacies:

How dare them consider themselves a southern convenience store and NOT sell Little Debbie products. It’s immoral and should be illegal for a southern convenience store shelves to be bare of Little Debbie snacks! It’s the preferred snack of Coach Nick Saban! This alone should be enough of a mandate to carry them. I shouldn’t stop there; I wouldn’t stop there–if it weren’t for my love of coffee and that little demon pill. So, I stop there nearly every time because it creates an inconvenience if I don’t! What’s all this ranting have to do with the Kingdom? What’s the lesson in this? Glad you asked . . .

The influence of the Kingdom of God is waning and even sickly in the U.S.  This sickness did not happen overnight–but through a process over the last several decades.  It happened as Tenured Pew Sitters began longing for a ‘More Convenient’ Jesus; a Jesus that is comfortable with what they are comfortable with; a Jesus who does not challenge their views; and most of all, A Jesus That Serves Their Desire To Be The Consumer Of Rather Than The Producers Of The Kingdom Life.

And this desire for a ‘More Convenient’ Jesus by the Tenured Pew Sitters has produced a new variety of people who have diluted The Message of The Kingdom.  They proudly label themselves as Progressives.  They, too, want a ‘More Convenient’ Jesus.  They want a Jesus that neither challenges nor inspires them to the life of Transforming Grace.  But rather than being consumers like the Tenured Pew Sitters, they are producers of a message that Jesus is all love, and as such, requires nothing to change in us except that we love, and that is all.  It’s not considered ‘loving’ to embrace the Christian-Judaeo morals and values–but being mean, ugly and unreasonable.  Cover immorality over with love and instantly it’s no longer immoral.  ‘Convenient Jesus’ does not mention sin–but angrily points the finger at any who disagree with their ‘Convenient Jesus’.

But here’s the thing:  ‘Convenient Jesus’ doesn’t exist–never has–never will.  Whether one is of the ilk of Tenured Pew Sitters or the ilk of Progressives, Jesus is anything but convenient.  Allow me to explain with some examples from the Real Jesus:

  • When the woman caught in the act of adultery was dragged before Jesus: (John 8:10-11) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  Giving up what makes one feel good, well that’s inconvenient.
  • When someone wanted to follow Jesus, but wanted first to bury his father: (Luke 9:60) But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”  Jesus doesn’t want to fit into your schedule; that doesn’t sound convenient.
  • When Jesus told the disciples of him impending death He called out to the crowd: (Luke 9:23)   Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  Life from a cross doesn’t sound convenient.  (OK 1 more in case you missed the point)
  • When James and John wanted the places of honor:  (Matthew 20:26-27) But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”Being a servant and a slave doesn’t fit into the sin-tainted game plan.

Convenience is the desire of the old heart and the old life.  It is also the lie from Satan.  Jesus came to create inconvenience in us so that we can be set free from the bondage of sin.  Jesus did not come in our human form to make our lives easy–rather He came in human form to make our lives full and complete.  And sometimes . . . well it is inconvenient.  But don’t stress out–He promises to be with us to guide and empower us to the only life that really matters.  The life God created for us–not the life we designed for ourselves.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.

Here’s Your Sign!

The Signs That God Will Change Our Culture Are Here—We Just Need To Follow Them.

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Comedian Bill Engvall made a comfortable living for his family through his “Here’s Your Sign” routine.  Just in case you haven’t heard of Bill, allow me to explain.  He talks about some of the not so bright things people do and say.  For example, at an airport the airline had lost his luggage.  He went to the lost luggage department to report it.  The girl at the counter asked, “Has your flight landed yet?”  He replied, “No, princess. I’m having an out of body experience.  I’m just checkin’ on it.  Here’s your sign.”

I moved in 2004 and I was looking for a doctor.  I made an appointment and when it was time to go, I decided to ride my bike.  After waiting, my name was called.  I grabbed my motorcycle helmet to follow the nurse.  As we walked into the hall, she looked at my motorcycle helmet and asked, “Oh, do you ride a motorcycle?”  But before I could reply, “Nope, always wanted one but this is all I could afford.” she laughed and said, “Well, here’s my sign!”

Seriously, signs are very important.  If we are going out of town on vacation, business or family business to a place we’ve never been before we watch the signs.  Signs show us when to stop, where to turn, how fast to safely go.  Can you imagine highways without signs?  That’s a horrible thought. 

Men, we would be forced to ask for directions.  I hate asking for directions because it means either I don’t know how to get somewhere, or I don’t know where I am.  Signs Are For Protection, Direction And Clarity.  Let’s  pick up the story about some signs God knew Gideon needed in Judges 6:33-40 (N.L.T.)

Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel. Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power.  

He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.

Then Gideon said to God, “If You are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way.  I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight.  If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”  And that is just what happened.  When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request.  Let me use the fleece for one more test.  This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”  So that night God did as Gideon asked.  The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.

Gideon has assembled an army to fight the Midianites.  But it’s not just the Midianites this time.  They have come with the Amalekites, and what is called the people of the east.  Now there are at least 3 times as many as before—bullies, thieves, and killers as far as the eye could see.  When Gideon accepted the assignment, it was just the Midianites, and that was more than enough to face. 

Now the threat has tripled.  Gideon does the wise thing, he asks for clarity.  “God, are you sure you want me to still go?  It’s not just the Midianites down there.”  So, Gideon asks for a sign.  He puts a wool fleece on the threshing floor and asks God, “If YOU are really going to do this, in the morning let the fleece be wet and the ground be dry.”  Next morning God makes the dew fall on the fleece but not the ground. 

Good enough, right?  But Gideon needs some reassurance, so he asks for another sign.  This time let the fleece be dry and the ground be wet.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Who says men never asks for directions?  I’ve heard some preachers and teachers criticize Gideon because he asked for a sign and then a second sign. 

Can we talk?  I don’t think this is a character flaw or lack of faith on Gideon’s part.  In fact, today I Highly Commend Him For It.  He is about to engage in the God-Sized Task of Changing His Culture.  Look at Gideon’s culture. 

He does not have scriptures for guidance.  The Midianites were the most powerful army at the time and this time they’ve brought extras.  They were ruthless killers.  But one good thing Gideon did not have was a church full of folks to tell him, “We’ve Never Done It That Way Before!  It costs too much!  It doesn’t match up to what we want to do!  It may bring in people who don’t fit in here!”

Gideon wants direction—not just any direction—he wants Clear Direction.  Gideon needs The Assurance And The Reassurance that he has heard God correctly.  Not one sign, but two.  But don’t overlook what Gideon is seeking.  Words and their placement in a statement is everything.  “If You are truly going to use me…”  Gideon does not ask, “Give me a sign that I can do it.” 

Be honest now, how many times has that been your prayer.  “Lord, if I can do this give me a sign.” I have!  I’ve even asked God to give me one of those huge billboards with flashing arrow signs pointing at it. The Sign Gideon Seeks Is Not About His Abilities, But The Assurance Of God’s Presence.

And if you can remember just one thing today, it is imperative that you remember this:  The Signs That God Will Change Our Culture Are Here—We Just Need To Follow Them.  Did you hear how I phrased this:  I did not say God can change the culture—God Will Change The Culture.  To say our Culture cannot change is the Sign that we’ve lost our Confidence in God.

Gideon will go into battle, Gideon will change his Culture, but only If God Is With Him.  Gideon assumes nothing.  I’m sure at times it felt like it was a dream for Gideon.  And I do not see God getting aggravated with Gideon.  What I See Is That God Answers With The Assurance AND Reassurance Of His Promise!  To change his Culture, Gideon needed the signs.  To change our Culture, we need the signs.  No, not putting the fleece on the ground, but something better. 

God has signs of The Assurance And Reassurance that He is going to change our Culture and That He Is Going To Do It Through Us.  We just need to know the signs, and we need to learn like Gideon, to follow the signs to wherever it is that God leads us.  Gideon only needed 2 signs; but God has given us 3 (1-2-3) signs that He is going to change the Culture through you.  Need a sign that God can use you to change the Culture?  Well, here’s your first sign of the Assurance And Reassurance That God Will Do It Through You:

1.  We Have The Sign Of The Cross

The Cross is more than an ornament in the Church or in our homes—much more.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18—The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!  But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  We don’t try to reform people to help them become better people. 

We Lead Them To Jesus Where The Cross Transforms Them.  On that Cross evil men did their worst to Jesus.  They thought the Cross would silence Jesus and put an end to the Message.  What they failed to recognize is that The Cross Intended To Silence The Message, Is In Fact THE Message

On that Cross Jesus conquered our biggest problem—SIN!  What we couldn’t do about our sin, Jesus did for us.  He took the penalty for my sin, your sin, everybody’s sin and paid it in full.  Now, if God can do that—and He did—don’t you think He can use you to change the Culture?  That Cross Has Already Changed The World And God Invites Us To Join Him In Changing The Culture.  Need a sign that God will use you?  The Cross—Here’s your sign!  Here’s your second sign:

2.  We Have The Sign Of The Empty Tomb

When all those Mary’s went to the tomb, they didn’t find Jesus in a tomb.  They found an angel with a message.  The message we find in Mark 16:6-7—

“Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead!  Look, this is where they laid his body.  Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” 

The message of the Resurrection is that Jesus is always going ahead of us and we will see him.  And what Jesus does is share with us the Resurrection.  He Resurrected the hopes of Mary and Mary and Mary and the other Mary, and Peter and John and Thomas and all of them.  He took on death and made it look like a wimp. 

If He can do that to death, You Cannot Imagine What God Can Do Through You.  To know Jesus as Savior AND Lord is to know the power He has over death.  That power of Resurrection lives in us who are following Jesus.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10—I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. 

You Don’t Have To Ask For That Power To Come To You.  That Power Lives In You When Jesus Lives In You.  Need a sign that God will use you to change your world?  The Resurrection—Here’s Your Sign!  And here is your third sign:

3.  We Have The Sign Of The Spirit

There is not a single ability that we all have.  We all have different abilities.  There is not a single talent that every one of us have.  We all have a variety of talents.  There is not a particular spiritual gift that we all possess.  We have different spiritual gifts.  This is the way God designed the Koinonia.  But there is something—rather some ONE—that lives inside of every believer. 

He is the same inside me as He is in you.  He is the same inside you as He is in the person sitting next to you.  Though we have different abilities, different gifts, different levels of maturity—we have living inside us the same Spirit—God’s Spirit—The Holy Spirit.

And Because He Is The Same Spirit, We All Share The Same Result Of The Spirit.  It’s Called The Fruit Of The Spirit.  Listen to how Paul describes the result of His Spirit living in us from Galatians 5:22-23—

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Here’s another one of my personal missions in life.  It’s Not FRUITS Of The Spirit, Meaning Many.  It IS The FRUIT Of The Spirit—Meaning One Single Fruit Produced By The Holy Spirit.

The Sign That The Holy Spirit Is Living Inside Us Is Not In An Ability Or Ministry—It Is The Fruit That Only He Can Produce In Us! Let me repeat this: The Sign That The Holy Spirit Is Living Inside Us Is Not In An Ability Or Ministry—It Is The Fruit That Only He Can Produce In Us! If that fruit Is Growing In Us, it means that HE Is Living In Us.

AND—If HE Is Living IN Us, Then We Can Count On Jesus Living THROUGH Us To Change Our World!  The Sign Of The Spirit Is That We Can Count On God!  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22—“He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”   Need a sign that God will use you to change The Culture?  The Holy Spirit—Here’s Your Sign!

What is God guaranteeing that is to come?  Oh, yes, most definitely our home in heaven.  But before we get to heaven, there is something else to do.  It’s the reason why we are the Church.  Matthew 28:18-19—Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” 

But before we get our guaranteed home in heaven, we have a God-Sized mission—to change The Culture by making more disciples for Jesus.  The story of Gideon Should Become your story.  The story of Gideon Can Become your story. 

Are serious about Following Jesus?  Then The Story Of Gideon IS Your Story, If You Can Read And Follow The Signs.  Gideon changed his Culture because God was working through Gideon.  And God can change our Culture by working through you.  And here’s your sign:

Do you have the First Sign?  Have you truly asked Jesus to forgive you and believe that His Cross is enough?  If not, then come to His altar because He has a Sign for you. 

If you’ve done this, have you taken the second step?  Do you truly believe that the Power that conquered death is living in you and are you living in and with that power?  If not, come to His altar for He has a sign for you.  If you’ve done the first two, let me ask: 

Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in you?  In other words, does the Holy Spirit have control of your heart and mind.

And here’s your Next Step.

If You Believe God Is Going To Change The Culture Through You, Then Produce The Fruit!  These are not multiple choice of fruits—but a Single Fruit Produced By The Holy Spirit.

To be qualified for a God-Sized task Gideon has taught us the first 3 lessons:

1.  Only the weakest become the strongest.  God wants the many, the humble, the weakest.

2.  Cut down the Asherah Poles.  Get rid of those things that are holding power over us.  Our confidence and strength comes from our relationship with God—a relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.

3.  Follow the Signs—The Cross, The Empty Tomb, The Holy Spirit.  Follow these signs and you can count on God to change your world through you.

Next week we are going to see WHEN NOT ENOUGH IS TOO MANY!

Is It Time To Change The Rules?

Recently I entered a strange world–it’s called Twitter. Oh, I’ve had a Twitter account and these musings here show up in my Twitter feed. But instead of just “tweeting”, “liking”, and the occasional “retweet”, I decided to dive in to a thread that, well, got my attention.

It was about doing away with the Electoral College because it wasn’t . . . fair. I was amazed at the number of people wanting to abolish the Electoral College all because “their” candidate wasn’t elected. The theme of being unfair rang throughout the rants.

And I was dumbfounded by those who didn’t understand it. I made a simple comment, excuse me, “tweet”, that the U.S. is a Representative Republic and not a democracy. One “twit” (I know my snarky is coming out) corrected me by saying that Google corrects it to “Representative Democracy”. I tweeted that just because Google said it doesn’t make it true. Right now I’ve drawn all the curtains and regularly peek outside to see if the mob armed with torches and axes are approaching the house. And I wept that so many were being educated by Google rather than knowledge and common sense.

I could go on about what I encountered, but another thought came over me. It was the question that is the title of this post: “Is It Time To Change The Rules?” It seems to me that our culture is being driven to accept only the results that it desires in the moment. If rules gets in the way of achieving those desires, then the rules need to be changed in order to achieve the wanted outcome.

Now, those who know me knows that I can be a rebel by breaking some of the rules. And there are some rules that indeed need to be changed. Our nation has a history of changing rules, rules that are unjust, rules that demean human life, or make it impossible for citizens to reach out for their potential. Some rules have taken a long time, too long of a time, to be changed.

It has happened even in the church. Wrong and sinful things were justified and approved. People were segregated by social status and the color of their skin. Women were denied the opportunity to pursue God’s call on their life. (Some still deny them that right. And for those who sincerely believe I am wrong on this, it’s OK for you to be wrong. And if you take Paul’s “let women be silent in church” out of context, then I’ll take it out of context and say that women can’t sing in church! Yes, that’s me being snarky.)

Yes, rules have been changed. Those changes happened because there were rules that needed to be broken, urgently needed to be change. Why? Not because a group decided those rules were unfair. The rules weren’t changed so that some group could get their way. They were changed because those rules were unjust.

It’s the desire to change the rule in order have one’s own way at any cost that disturbs me most. There is an attempt in my Tribe to change the rules on Christian conduct; to change the definition of God-Approved Marriage. And when the rule won’t change, they live in open disobedience, with little or no consequences. And this desire to change the rules in order to get one’s desired outcome has led to chaos and anger; anger and chaos; and it’s ripping apart both our nation and church.

Yes, some rules need to be changed. But never, ever, ever simply to achieve some personal desire or wish. Rules that need to be changed are those of justice and keeping the doors of opportunity open to anyone and everyone. Changing the rules needs to be done through discernment, deep thought, and focused on the issues of justice and human dignity. The Electoral College is about as fair as it gets–so it’s not about justice. The Electoral College doesn’t take away human dignity. And this is for the cupcakes–when your candidate isn’t elected, it’s NOT a matter of dignity; it just that you act so UNdignified. So why change that rule? Changing rules to achieve one’s personal (and often selfish and void of common sense) desires, will only devolve into chaos–and that chaos will invite tyranny into the U.S.; something the Founding Fathers worked hard to prevent.

To Change THE Culture, Change YOUR Culture!

Must Change Your Culture.

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(Second message in current message series “How To Change The Culture”

To refresh your memory, this series is about becoming How To Change The Culture!.  Hopefully last week we learned that in order for God to use us To Change The Culture, we have to become the weakest of the weakest. 

One thing that hit me is that we often operate with the mindset that we can Change The Culture and the church by Working Through God.  Allow me to explain what that means:  Working Through God Means We Take Our Ideas And Our Plans And Our Beliefs And Expect God To Bless It And Bring Success. 

The Church is designed a different way.  Rather Than Us Working Through God, The Kingdom Is Designed For God To Work Through Us.  I know this is a subtle difference, but can you see the difference? 

It would not be Gideon doing this through God, but God doing it through Gideon.  This is what Jesus was talking about in John 15 when he describes our relationship as He being the vine and we becoming the branches.  It’s About Yielding To The Presence, Power, And Purposes Of God. The flow is from the Vine going into the Branches. Fruit is produced because of what the Vine is putting into the branches. The branches don’t tell the vine what to do. The Vine defines what the branches do.

Today Gideon shows us the next step in becoming qualified for the God Sized Purpose in life.  Let’s look pick up the reading in Judges 6:17-32

Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.  Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”  He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”  Gideon hurried home.  He cooked a young goat, and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast.  Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree.

The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.”  And Gideon did as he was told.  Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought.  And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed!  I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”  “It is all right,” the Lord replied.  “Do not be afraid.  You will not die.”  And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”).  The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.

That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old.  Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.  Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully.  Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”  So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded. But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town. 

Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down.  In their place a new altar had been built, and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed.  The people said to each other, “Who did this?”  And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash. 

“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash.  “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.”  But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted him, “Why are you defending Baal?  Will you argue his case?  Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning!  If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!”  From then on Gideon was called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.

God has informed Gideon that he has been chosen to Change The Culture and that He, God, is with him and that He would fight for Gideon.  Now we come to Gideon’s response.  Every time we encounter God requires a response from us.  It is the nature of the Divine Encounter.  Even if we think we’ve made no response, we have made a response.  There’s no way around it.  We either grow deeper into that relationship or we go further away from that relationship.  And growing deeper inevitably requires taking action.

And here is the one thing you need to remember from today’s message: Before The Culture Of This Nation And Our Tribe Can Change, You Must Change Your Culture.

I have parable for you this morning.  There are 5 frogs sitting on a log.  3 of them decide to jump.  How many frogs do you have left?  Is your answer 2?  5-3=2.  Is your answer 0, because if one frog jumps, then all the others will join?  Are you ready for the answer? 

The answer is 5!  How did I arrive at that answer?  Easy.  I never said they jumped, just that they made a decision.  And here is where the church is at today:  We Haven’t Taken The Leap Of Faith Into The God-Sized Purpose Of Changing Our Culture.

With the assurance of His presence and the promise of His power, Gideon acts.  But notice the way he acts.  He doesn’t get his sword and round up an army.  He doesn’t go looking for a fight. 

The truth is that his first response has nothing to do with the problem of the Midianites.  It deals with His Own Personal Culture.  And here’s the first lesson about accepting the mission of this God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture:

1.  Gideon Worships God!

To make sure he has heard everything right, Gideon asks if it’s appropriate to offer worship.  I can just see God in heaven.  He smiled when Gideon said, “I’m too weak!”  And when Gideon asks for permission to worship first, God did more than smile.  He danced!  Those end zone dances you see in the NFL are nothing compared to when God dances. 

So off Gideon goes to prepare the sacrifice for worship.  He cooks a young goat and makes unleavened bread with an ephah of flour, that’s what the KJV says.  An ephah of flour is over a half a bushel.  A young goat and a loaf of bread made from over a half a bushel of flour.  Don’t you get what’s happening?  Remember the first half of this chapter.  Most of their crops have been destroyed along with their flocks and herds. 

They are reduced to starvation.  But Gideon takes a young goat and a half a bushel of flour and with that, he worships God.  He’s not offering God something out of his abundance. 

He’s offering God what is probably the bulk if not all that he has in worship.  Worship Is About Surrender—Surrendering All That We Have And Are To God.  There are 168 Hours In A Week and many think that because they spend 1 hour out of 168 in a sanctuary on Sunday that they have worshipped God.  Time spent in this sanctuary amounts to .59% Of Your Week.  A little over a half a percent. 

Now, would you consider that an acceptable offering to God?  If God is going to Change The Culture of our nation and tribe through us, then worship needs to be an offering of our best—our time, our heart, our energy.  It must be your heart every moment you are awake; the attitude we carry in the home, to work, to shopping, to everywhere!  Worship is about keeping focus on the Presence, Power And Purposes of God.

When Gideon offers this worship, look at what the angel says:  Put the meat and bread on the rock, and then pour out the broth on it.  Now, for Gideon’s world this was ridiculous.  Gideon could have protested, “Look, I slaved over this meal and this is perfectly good soup.”  But he doesn’t.  He does exactly what he is told.  The angel took his staff and touched the offering and fire came from the rock and consumed it all. 

Here’s the Lesson that seems to have been forgotten by so many:  We Provide The Instruments For Worship, But Only God Provides The Fire.  The angel disappeared and Gideon knows he’s been in God’s presence and thinks “Well, I cooked the goat, but now my goose is cooked!”.  But God speaks to Gideon words filled with hope. God’s voice doesn’t boom out from heaven, but in a gentle way God says,  “Don’t Be Afraid!”  And this leads us to the second thing you must understand about accepting this God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture.

2.  Gideon’s Culture Changed Because Gideon Was Changed First.

He names that place Yahweh Shalom—God Is Peace!  Before Gideon could change the culture of his nation, he needed to Change His Own Culture.  Gideon had been afraid and blaming God.  But now Gideon’s heart has been changed.  Even with the fear and all the questions he had, Gideon learns a most important lesson:  He Learns To Trust God. 

In that trust he discovers the Peace Of God.  We are not going to change our nation by forwarding emails and signing petitions or gripping about our leaders.  The Process Of Change Begins With Us.  God changed The Culture but He started with Gideon. 

God can and God will change Our Culture, but it starts with the person you see in the mirror.  Now Gideon is in a position for God to use him.  And God goes right to work using Gideon.  And here is the third a final lesson today about being qualified for the God-Sized Task:

3.  Gideon Had To Cut Down His Asherah Pole.

What’s an Asherah Pole?  Asherah was the Canaanite goddess of fertility.  She was the wife of the god known as Baal.  She was the one they were thinking could bring fertility to the ground—abundant crops—multiply livestock—and cause their wife to produce a lot of children.  These were all signs of prosperity and strength.

The more crops one had, the more livestock and kids one had, the more they thought they were strong.  They believed their strength came from the Asherah pole. 

As Long As They Thought Their Strength Came From The Asherah Pole, The Asherah Pole Held Them In Prison And Bondage.  

So Gideon goes out to do it, but at night.  Why at night?  Because he’s afraid of what the others might do to him.  Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well, there goes Gideon the Coward again!”  But there’s another way to look at this:

Even though Gideon still has some fear issues in his life, it doesn’t keep him from doing what God wants, and as you will see, it will not disqualify him from what God is yet to do. The results are the same.  If you allow fear of this God-Sized task keep you from doing anything, God cannot use you to change The Culture

The Asherah Pole had to come down before he went into battle against the Midianites.   Why?  So that no one would think their strength came from the Asherah Pole, but only from God.  Before They Could Set The Nation Free, They Had To Be Free. 

And what about your Asherah Pole?  Asherah Poles are all around us today.  Oh, they don’t look like the Asherah Poles of Gideon’s day, but they are just as real.  What is your Asherah Pole?  Idols are still present today, they just look different. 

Is your Asherah Pole the desire to be comfortable?  Is your Asherah Pole the desire for convenience?  Is your Asherah Pole what you consider important?  Is your Asherah Pole contentment with complaining and doing nothing, but complain?  Is your Asherah Pole fear?  Anger?  Despair?  Selfishness?  Apathy?

Do what Gideon does:  Cut It Down And Put It On God’s Altar.  God cannot use you to Change The Culture of this nation and church until you cut down your Asherah Pole.  But if you will, God will Change You, Then Change Your Culture And In Changing Your Culture, He Will Change The Culture.

Last week you were given a choice for your next step.  Join up with all the complaining; or give up that anything will ever change; or step up and become the next Gideon.  Here’s this week’s Next Step

1.  You Can Hold On To That Idol, Whatever It May Be.  OR

2.  Cut Down The Asherah Poles In Your Life.  Get rid of those things that are holding power over you.  Your confidence and strength comes from your relationship with God—a relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.

Everyone Can’t Get Along

We hear a lot, I mean a lot, of people saying, “Can’t we just get along?” My answer is a resounding

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“Whenever the inappropriate fear of people eclipses the appropriate fear of God, it’s a short step to image management and control tactics. When we fear people, we tend to develop appeasement strategies in order to manage any perceived volatility. The tendency is to manage appearances in order to keep the peace. The truth? It’s really just conflict avoidance in order to get around dealing with dysfunction.

J. D. Walt

The above words were the opening lines of one of my daily morning readings. We hear a lot, I mean a lot, of people saying, “Can’t we just get along?” My answer is a resounding

Does this mean I’ve lost all hope for and in humanity?

It’s thin sometimes, but no, I haven’t lost hope for and in humanity. This being said. . . we can’t get along. Now hear me carefully: WE CAN’T GET ALONG. . .IN THIS CURRENT CLIMATE. . .UNTIL WE CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE! You might have thought I would say “attitude” rather than “perspective”. But that’s not how this works. . .that’s not how any of this works!

Perspective is what influences and creates attitude. And in the current climate, the perspective is “peace at all costs.” Some call it “political correctness”. . .so do I. Now, I’m not advocating attitudinal anarchy. . . but there comes a moment when we have to accept that this fallen human nature is incapable of getting along. I said “fallen” human nature.

Fellow Disciples Of Jesus, Followers Of The Way, we cannot get along with the world . . . nor with each other as long as “getting along with each other” involves keeping the peace through compromise. Again, I’m not promoting attitudinal anarchy–but truth is–there’s a lot of it out there, including in the church.

So, what’s the option? Is there an option? There is an option–but we have to accept that not everyone is going to agree with it. The option we can choose . . . MUST choose . . . is to be true to God by becoming like Jesus. Jesus is the perfect model of graciousness AND truthfulness. Jesus chose appropriate moments and words that intentionally dwindled the number of “followers”.

Why? Because Jesus would not offer nor accept a fake peace built on compromise. Jesus DOES offer peace and it happens as we live each moment of each day by God’s Truth. And we offer the world The TRUTH. Not with arrogance . . . there’s too much of that already . . . but with the perspective of Jesus . . . the perspective that formed his attitude in life. What is that perspective? So glad you asked. . .

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)

There comes a time, a moment in a culture, when the desire to get along must die in order for the attitude of Jesus to be clearly seen so that Truth becomes clear. And it will be clear if we speak with graciousness and truthfulness. Today is such a time. We can’t get along–but we can be kind, like Jesus . . . and be faithful to God.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Captain, That’s Not Logical!

The trending Logic of today is driven by. . . what always drives Logic: The Current Attitudes, Values and Morals.

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(image from http://www.npr.com)

I grew up watching Star Trek (the real and original one, bad acting and all). I’ve seen all the Star Trek movies, original cast of course; after all, I am a purist. Mr. Spock has always been my favorite character. His love AND insistence on Logic and the Logical course of action was the mark of his character. I think what drew me in to this character of Logic Based Decisions was the people surrounding him. Jim. Scotty. Dr. McCoy, aka, Bones. If ever there was a trio of Illogical characters, that trio embodied it. Thus, the conflict between Logical Spock and the Illogical Trio.

And these random thoughts got me to thinking about our current state of affairs–as a nation and as a church. And that is the form of Logic being used today. The trending Logic of today is driven by. . . what always drives Logic: The Current Attitudes, Values and Morals. Attitudes are how we interpret life. Values are how we distinguish between the important and not important. Morals are conclusions on what is right and what wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

The news outlets, political parties, analysts, noisy leaders, even church leaders, are using a Logic based on their Attitudes, Values and Morals. I think even Mr. Spock would say:

And that is The Problem. But those of us of operate out of the realm of Common Sense Logic are left wanting to scream and pull out our hair. And trust me on this one, I don’t have much hair to pull out; I’m trying to keep what little I have. But seriously, there are times I want to grab some people by the collar and give them a good old Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head. But. . . that would be, in the words of Spock:

The Logic of today is to argue, be hateful, condescending and plain ol’ ugly towards people who’s Logic is different. The results are deepening alienation from each other; and this is not how God designed life for us. We are created to live TOGETHER, working along side Him in discovering and tending to His Creation. The current state of Logic is ripping apart the fabric of society–and destroying countless lives.

As just one example of many, consider the number of suicides found within the LBGTQ community. The church has NOT helped them; and in my Logic if you are not helping, then you are hurting. I will NOT go as far as my progressive friends and say the high rate of suicide is the sole fault of the church. But face it–we have treated them at times badly, very badly. But even then, they have a choice in how they receive and react to the bad treatment. Here’s a bit of Side Bar Wisdom: Even if you think you don’t have a choice, THAT IS your choice.

When I say the church has done harm, it is because of the choice of words directed toward the LBGTQ community. You may say, “But Preacherman, it’s a sin–an abomination to the Lord.” So they choose ugly words and direct them towards gay people. But there are other things that are also abominations to God:

Oh, you think you haven’t done anything that’s an abomination to the Lord? Ever told a lie, even an alleged “little white lie”? Never sowed discord?

Well, I am about to chase some rabbits so I need to get back on point. The current Logic doesn’t work. It sets us up for failure. To change our Logic we need to change our, what? Attitudes, Values And Morals. Align them with God. I know, I know, all of God’s Logic contradicts human Logic. And that’s a good thing.

The Attitude of God is that we are all messed up somewhere, but there is still within all of us His Image–so He treats us with Graciousness and Mercy.

The Values of God is that we are so important to Him, that He wants us to be delivered and set free to become the person HE knows is within us–the person who reflects His Glory.

The Morals of God–what He knows is right or wrong, is what He longs to implant within us through the Holy Spirit.

Does all of this contradict the Logic of our world?

Our Logic isn’t working. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Maybe Mr. Spock is on to something. . .but God is definitely on to something–something great:

It’s really logical to Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him.

HOW TO CHANGE OUR CULTURE! THE WEAKEST ARE THE STRONGEST

These are serious times. You choose your Personal Culture. Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings. It is Chosen BY you.

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Anger, No, It’s Rage—Bitterness—Resentment— Distrust—Disappointment—Levels Of Frustration Rarely Seen In Human History—Melancholy—Gloomy—Despair—Fear—Pained—Sterile—Desperate—Pessimistic—Despondent—Unpromising—Unrealistic Expectations.  These Dark Words speak about our current social, political and moral culture.

In my writing, teaching and preaching, I have found myself using the word Culture. I feel the need to define this word in the way I use it.  I could use big words to define Culture, but  Here’s the short form:  Culture Is The Attitudes, Values And Morals Shared By People In A Particular Place And Time.  Makes sense, right? 

What we see in the news on a daily basis—how politicians are acting in Washington D.C. and Montgomery—how the value system has broken down—reveals a culture that’s twisted and inept at solving the many problems we have.  And we see the same Culture in our own Tribe.  And it got me to thinking:

The new series is How To Change Our Culture.  It takes real Spirit-filled, Spirit led-people to move forward in the way that will radically transform the Culture of our nation and church. 

Unfortunately, many believe that neither our Culture nor our Tribe could ever change.  And the results, well, they are unhealthy and even devastating.  So for the next few weeks I want us to look at the story of one of the most unlikeliest of heroes of Changing The Culture—Gideon. 

His story is another one of those great lessons from the Bible about God changing the Culture Of One Man And A Whole Nation.  His story begins in Judges 6:1-16 (NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years.  The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza.  They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys.  These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count.  And they stayed until the land was stripped bare.  So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites.  Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.  When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites  He said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt.  I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you.  I drove out your enemies and gave you their land.  I told you, ‘I am the Lord your God.  You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’  But you have not listened to me.”  Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer.  Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”  “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?  And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?  Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt?’  But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”  Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites.  I am sending you!”  “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel?  My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”  The Lord said to him, “I will be with you.  And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

We find Gideon threshing wheat at the bottom of a wine press.  In ancient times they did not use vats or barrels to make wine.  They would find a fairly large rock formation and chisel out 2 pits.  One of them would be lower and deeper than the other so that the juice from the grapes would flow down.  It was probably 3 feet, maybe more below the ground. 

But Gideon isn’t making wine.  He’s threshing wheat in the lower pit.  Why the lower pit?  So that he couldn’t be seen.  He was scared to death of the Midianites.  They were the local neighborhood bullies.  He’s hiding, hoping they won’t see him. But get this:  his name means Destroyer, Mighty Warrior, Mighty Hero!  This mighty warrior is cowardly hiding from the bullies.  When suddenly an unexpected visitor shows up and calls him by the meaning of his name:  Mighty Hero.

Excuse me, but does anyone other than me see the irony here?  Called a Mighty Hero while he’s hiding from the local bullies.  I mean, the words and the man do not even come close.  They are not in the same zip code, not in the same county, not in the same state, not in the same country. They’re not even in the same universe.

But there is more going on here than just what meets the eye. There is more going on than bullies and cowards.  God has a purpose and a mission, and His plan surprises Gideon and even me. 

Here is where real Culture Change begins, and where our lives can turn around  Here’s the first thing you need to see:

1.  God Is With Him!

But where was Gideon spiritually?  If you listened carefully, he told you where he was spiritually.  “Lord, if you were with us, why are we being bullied by the Midianites?” 

You know what Gideon’s talking about don’t you?  If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is all this happening to me now?”,  under our breath we are thinking, “Well, God, if you really were with me then all this bad stuff wouldn’t have happened to me!”

I know what this feels like. It feels like God have forgotten us or been too busy for us; or simply that we aren’t worthy of God’s presence. When you’re hiding in the pit, when the bullies are threatening you, when it seems like God has forgotten you—He Hasn’t.  Every single thing you go through, God is with you.  He knows every ache and sees every tear and feels every fear because He is with you.  Now we come to the next thing you need to see:

2.  God Has Chosen Him For A God-Sized Task.

God chose Gideon for the task of changing his Culture.  How would God change Gideon’s Culture?  By saving and redeeming them.  God has seen them and heard their cries.  Even though they were not faithful to God and were worshipping other gods, God knew what Gideon’s world needed.  And He Calls On Gideon To Change His World.  And how does Gideon respond?  “Great, God.  ‘Bout time!  Let’s get to work!” 

No!  Gideon’s response was, “You gotta be kidding!  My family is the weakest and I’m the least in the whole family.  Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh, which was the largest tribe of all.  Many of Gideon’s ancestors fought alongside Joshua with strength, honor and courage.  You know what he’s doing, don’t you?  He’s making excuses!

He’s saying, “Look, Lord. There are people far more qualified that I am.  There are braver people than me.”  If Gideon was right, then where were they?  According to verse 2 they were hiding in the mountain crevices and caves.  But when Gideon says this, it shows that God made the right choice.  For a God sized task, we need someone who knows that they can’t do it by themselves.  Which leads us to our final lesson today:

3.  He Can Count On God To Be With Him Every Step Of The Way.

Look at verse 16:  The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”  This is the first good news Gideon has heard in a very long time.  God promises Gideon that it will seem like he is fighting against only one man. 

How could it feel like that?  Because God is going to fight for him.  He’s With Him In The Pit, And He Will Be With Him In The Battle!  Yes, God meets us in our pits but He doesn’t leave us there! 

He wants to lead us out of our pits and into the Kingdom Battle.  But God doesn’t leave us alone on the battlefield.  He is still with us and He Is Fighting For Us!  Think back to the Hebrew children at the edge of the Red Sea, when God said in Exodus 14:14—“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” 

God wants someone who cannot do what He wants unless they are counting on His presence and power.  God chose Gideon, not because he was the smartest and the strongest; because, simple truth is, he wasn’t.

Had Gideon felt like he was smart enough and strong enough to change his culture, he would have failed.  God could change Gideon’s world through Gideon because of his weakness.    God loves to hear us say, “Hey, I can’t do that!  I don’t have what it takes!”  Doubt that this principle of God needing the weakest really works?  Have you ever read the Bible?  Studied the history of the church?

The U.S. Marines have a great motto for a fighting group:  The Few, The Proud, The Marines.  And in their ads they asked, “Do you have what it takes?” 

God isn’t looking for the few, the proud and those who think they have what it takes.  He’s Looking For The Many, The Humble, And The Weakest.  You can only be your strongest when you become just like Gideon—and say to God, “This is too much for me.  I need your strength.”   

Our culture around us needs to be changed.  Countless lives are hiding in fear and living in caves.  God wants to bring them out and deliver them.  But he needs a Gideon, someone who is too afraid to do it alone, too afraid to seek the glory, too afraid to trust anything other than this promise of God:  I am with you!  Are you willing to be the next Gideon?

And the One Thing You Need To Remember Is A Question, Which Is Why I Saved It Until The End—“Will You Be The Next Gideon?”

Changing the Culture in Washington D.C.—that’s a task that we simply cannot do—Yet!  But you can change your Personal Culture.  I’m talking about your Attitudes, Values And Morals.  It’s how you see your personal situations and the situations we are facing as the Body of Christ.  These are serious times.  You choose your Personal Culture.  Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings.  It is Chosen BY you.

So Choose Your Next Step Very Carefully:

1. You Can Join In With All The Mess—Complain And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame. OR

2. You Can Give Up And Hope Jesus Comes Back REAL Soon.  OR

3. You Can Make The Choice To Be The Gideon Our Culture, Our Church Is Urgently Needing. 

These are your only 3 choices—Join Up, Give Up or Step Up.  Which will be YOUR next step? Gideon’s choice about his personal culture changed everything for the nation.

“Be strong.  Take courage.  Don’t be intimidated.  Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you.  He’s right there with you.  He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (The Message)