Don’t forget those who Follow! Judges 8:5

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And he said to the men of Succoth,
“Please give loaves of bread to
the people who are following me,
for they are exhausted, and I am
pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna,
the kings of Midian.”
Judges 8:5

Gideon, finds himself still in pursuit of the Midianites, whom defeated and destroyed some of God’s people in Tabor.  Gideon’s army is outnumbered 300 to 15,000, and though pursuing with passion, they are now hungry with the major part of the vision yet to accomplish!Feeding-The-Hungry

There are many things I love about this text starting with Gideons’ thoughts.  He encounters the leaders of Succoth, and though Zebah and Zalmunna are on the run, he still remembers he is being followed.  Gideon says, “please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me…” 

Though he is focused on the vision, he is in touch with the people following him.

Though this would seem simple, it is more challenging that it seems. There are times when the vision and the people seem to be pulling in different directions, and other times when the people are in pursuit with the man of God, but have needs that complete with or slow down the time frame for accomplishing the vision.  When these things occur, it is easy for the man or woman of God to focus their full attention on the completion of the task at hand, putting those following on the back shelf.  Neglect is in these cases is the outcome, but exist because there is confusion as to what is most valuable.

We found Jesus in this same situation.  Busy teaching and preaching, in the midst of traveling to another location, and being confronted with the issues and lack in the life of those following Him.  Though spreading the good news was his purpose, ultimately dying for the sins of the world, He was still compassionate and concerned about those following Him.   We too have to continue valuing the members of the kingdom, while we carry out the cause of the kingdom.

heartUnlike Gideon, for many, the voice of God and the desire to complete His vision is so deafening, that those following and assisting in the completion of the vision or simply hungry.  Honestly, I believe this is much of the story of the #churchhurt story line.  We hear over and over about those who have felt the sting of ministries and leadership whom have become so “kingdom focused” that they forget about the “kingdom citizens.”  The Kingdom is made up of citizens, not buildings, and while buildings are needed to house the citizens for worship, the order of importance should not be forgotten.  There are those who view and treat people like pawns on a board to protect the King and Queen for the sake of defeating the adversary.  To God, the sheep are just as valuable as the shepherd.  He values the sheep so much, that He will leave the 99 to gather the one.  Much like He left heaven to restore the relationship between the lost sheep and He, the good shepherd.  In the kingdom, each has the same purpose;  to build the kingdom through evangelism, and then to disciple all who are willing to follow Him.

I also love that Gideon asks on their behalf.  He is beyond personal or corporate pride and immersed in concern.  Though they were not Gideon’s people, Gideon saw them as his responsibility.  He says “please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me”.  Yes, they chose to follow, but they are now experiencing a hardship because they are helping Gideon accomplish his vision.  For this, Gideon feels responsible.

follow

Gideon not only knew that they needed their strength for the journey, but understood that they needed food for survival.  I believe this is important because many will feed and nourish to accomplish the vision and task, but wont supply nourishment to live or even for the journey home. 

We must fight to make sure a proper perspective is kept towards God’s people.  As those imitating God, God keeps a relationship with those who choose to follow Him, and even supplies food for those who haven’t acknowledged Him as Lord.  He rained on the just and the unjust.  He healed those who believed, and healed those filled with doubt.  God cared about people, not just about the task.

I love Gideon’s last statement, “and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of  Midian.”  I know that the two thoughts are connected, letting us know that Gideon is not foolish.  He knows that defeating the 15,000 might require each life, but if they perish or choose not to continue, He restates his focus, “I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna”.  He is not distracted or discouraged.  He knows what God would have him to do, and he is determined to see it through.  He knows that God is with Him. and knows that God will honor His Word, but remains aware that in the life, others are often needed to accomplish your goals.  I gather that he is both grateful and appreciative for those who remained past the original 30,000 men, whom were reduced to 300.  So must we continue to care for and shepherd the 300, despite the choice of the 29 thousand at home watching you struggle to accomplish the vision in exchange for the cares of this world.

 

 

#PastorJDO3

We are All Here! Acts 16:22

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But Paul cried out with a loud voice,
saying, “Do yourself no harm,
for we are all here!”
Acts 16:28

“Do yourself no harm, for we are all here…” Paul cried out to the guard of the prison, whom woke from his slumber to discover that the gates to the prison were wide open, and the shackles on the feet were all loosened.  He looked around and not only had reason to fear the prisoners, but even greater was the Magistrate who had given him strict orders to secure the Paul and Silas.loudvoice

The Guard woke up from his sleep and realized the dangerous situation he was in and determined that it was best to take his life, and to suffer at the hands of the prisoners and or the Roman authorities.

He grabbed his sword, but before he could take his life, a loud cry reached him before he could finish the action.  “Do yourself no harm,”  Paul starts!   I love this portion of the statement, because it is what I am thinking when I speak to those who are living outside of Christ, and to those living in Christ but not submitted to Him.  Its hard to believe for many, but the wages and the reward of sin is not just the physical death, but the suffering that extends beyond one taking their last breaths!shutterstock_82835449

Millions reject Christ, running from truth, and while this is sad, the shame found is the many people running the opposite direction, refusing to take responsibility for Kingdom.  Many once free, hoist the blood stained banner over their house, and their public declaration of Lord and King stop once they emerge from the water.

But Paul and Silas were different.  Once free, they understood their purpose was to lead as many people to freedom as they could.  They saw those unsaved as an opportunity and those newly saved as a responsibility.  Though free to leave, Paul and Silas were arrested in place by the knowledge what others were listening, and though physically freed, they were spiritually in bondage.  In addition, the Jailer was a lost soul, and though sleep through praise and worship, was the one God had identified as ready to be freed.

falling-on-your-sword1Paul says, “Do yourself no harm,” and then continues, “for we are all here”.  You don’t have to continue on the path that you are on.  There is no need to harm yourself from this point on.  “We are all here.”  What I heard resonating in my Spirit was the need for those lost, struggling and suffering to know that they have not been abandoned.  Despite their prior encounter, Paul and Silas, put his needs before their own.  As opposed to judging him for his prior actions, they remained in place so he would not face the eternal judge without a righteous covering.

What would happen is we had a “We are all here” approach?

Wonderful File Cabinet Folder Tabs Inspirative Cabinet Decoration Filing Cabinet Divider TabsWe are living in a time where everyone is placed in to categories.  Sin serves like folder dividers, placing us into groups, and the world organizes us in such a way, that we find ourselves saying to those no free, “we are over here, and you are over there”.  And while it is our goal to bring them to freedom, is the judgement and separation that works against the affirming and convicting love of Christ.

Paul and Silas understood that the spotlight of righteousness cast by Christ is more than enough to handle and accept without the judgement and condemnation of man who is imperfect, but just filed differently.  And while our invoice has been paid, we recognize that the sins of all have been paid for with the same death, but that the lack of confession hasn’t allowed their invoice to be reconciled.

Paul could have said to the Jailer, ‘”…we are all here” for you’, and the statement would have been just as accurate.  

Who are you there for?
Who is your assignment?
Who is following you?

slavesI love the urgency and emotion displayed by Paul, as he “cried out.”  Though we don’t know if Paul could physically see the Jailer, we do know that he knew that he was getting ready to take drastic measures.  Maybe he sensed it in the Spirit, maybe God spoke to him in a voice, maybe the inmates spread the word to the center of the jail, or maybe he just had a birds eye view.  What we do know is that before the end of the story could be written, Paul lifted up his voice with a loud cry.  I believe this cry came not just in response to what he saw, but in response to what he believed.

Are you driven to speak out about what you believe?
Would you watch someone solidify their fate as opposed to helping someone solidify their faith?  

 

#PastorJDO3

In Pursuit; Despite the Circumstances Judges 8:4

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Gideon and his three hundred men,
exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit,
came to the Jordan and crossed it.
Judges 8:4

 

In the 8th Chapter of Judges, we find the Man of God in pursuit of enemies from the east.  Their numbers, according to the passage are upwards of 15 thousand men; soldiers to be more specific, yet Gideon is leading a band of men to capture them and destroy them. soldiearmor

Here we take our first pause.  Gideon displays the power and position those of us who walk in Spiritual authority should have.   He trims the fat (as God instructs), and takes those with faith forward to battle the enemy.  Looking past the numbers and the past battle history, Gideon guides his men on their trail, determined to carry out the Lords directions in His life.

I wonder how many of us would have the courage to pursuit 15 thousand with 300?

They were outnumbered times 50, but at God’s Word, were willing to face whomever God placed in their path.  Numbers are not always reflective of power, nor do they always predict victory.  Normally numbers project fear upon the opposition, but Gideon projected faith on his fears.

What could we accomplish if we looked at the “lack of” in our life and “enough”?   What would happen if we changed our perspective on our situations and circumstances, and counted God’s Word enough, despite what is in our hands, or even the fear that is in our hearts?  How much could we accomplish if we focused on utilizing the tools in our hand as opposed to being paralyzed with fear as to the things we would like to have for the task.  With God Word and the power of His Spirit, we are conquerors!

outnumberedAs we find, they are not just outnumbered, but they are lacking resources.  As usual, the story for us all, life seems to have many layers, and the to be saturated with challenges!  They have already expended their resources on the journey, but pressed on through their faith and with strong dedicated leadership.    The text lets us know that the men were exhausted from the journey, and their bodies ached, craving fuel to continue.  One could imagine further that they were struggling to stay focused.  Now the question is not whether they can beat the Midionites once they face them, but whether they will survive to even take up the task!

Exhausted and Focused don’t go together!

One of the first things to go when one is exhausted is their focus on the task at hand.  One can find themselves moving from faith to doubt, as they begin questioning not just God, but the leader as to when and where the next provision was coming from.  This issue plagued Moses as he lead God’s people. The hunger brought questions, causing them to loose sight of God’s Word, and doubt the Man of God because of the present lack of provisions.  They wanted to turn back.  They started questioning Moses as a leader.  They questioned God’s plan for their lives, and decided that bondage would be better than freedom.

Lack will make Suffering seem like Serenity!

Never the less, the text says they remained in pursuit.  As opposed to coming a part at the seams, they remembered the Word of God, and stayed focused on the leadership of Gideon and approached the Jordan.

matrix-revolutions-43This is important, because they are not just tasked with crossing the Jordan, they are tasked with crossing the Jordan, and fighting the Midionites who number 15 thousand.  I imagine that many doubted they could overcome this number with a full night of rest and a hearty breakfast, let alone, use their remaining energy to cross a river and then take on their numbers times 50.

But something amazing happens when you are on a mission for the Lord.  God had spoken through the man of God, revealing himself in miracles, letting the people know that God was with Gideon, and in that, was leading them.  Because they knew this, they were not only counting on their strength, and obviously were finding safety in their numbers, but were solely leaning upon God do bring them to and through they battle.  Truly they believed that the battle was not theirs, but that it was the Lords.

What would happen if we truly believed?

Neo_stops_bulletsHow many times have you stood at the bank of the river, and determined that crossing it was more than you could handle?  How many victories? How much stronger?  What would be accomplished?  What has been left un-done?

I have determined in my life, Jordan wont be an issue!  Exhaustion wont be an issue!  Soldiers won’t be an issue!  Midionites won’t be an issue!  Truly if God be for me!  I can do all things through Christ!  It is never more than I can bare!  I will remain in pursuit!  I will capture!  I will conquer!  I will have dominion!  It’s inevitable!

 

#PastorJDO3