How God sees you

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:11-12

The Midianites would regularly come in and destroy the land of Israel by consuming all of their crops and livestock. This left Israel impoverished and afraid. Gideon was so afraid of having no food that he was threshing his wheat crop inside a winepress to hide it from the Midianites.

Then the angel of the Lord shows up to Gideon and says two things that are completely contrary to the situation. He says, “The Lord is with you…” And then calls Gideon, “…mighty warrior.” Both parts seem to be very untrue at this moment in Israel’s history. God seems very far away from Israel and from Gideon. And, riddled with fear, Gideon is in no way a mighty warrior.

This is what God does for us. God sees in us who He created us to be, not who we are in the moment. God speaks the future over our lives when we are still in the present. By the end of the Gideon story, it will become obvious that God is with Gideon and that he is a mighty warrior. But when these words are spoken in this moment, they sound ridiculous.

God’s words have creative power. So words from God that declare our future have a way of pulling us into that future. What God says about us in this moment is more true than the circumstances that we see around us. His words about us are more true than our own self-image or self-perception. Our job is to believe His words above everything else we see with our physical eyes.

I’ve had this personally happen to me. I’ve had people come up to me and give me a prophetic word from the Lord. When they said the word to me, it sounded ridiculous. It sounded outlandish and fanciful. Yet, looking back years later, I realize that every bit of that word was true. And more than that, because that word was spoken, it had a gravitational force to it that pulled me into that future.

God still does this with me today. There are moments I’ve had in prayer where I sense God saying something over my life. Yet what God says seems unbelievable. But what God is teaching me is to trust His word over the circumstances I see around me. I’m learning to trust His words about me more than I trust my thoughts about me.

So, what is God saying about you? What word does He have for your life? If you don’t know, ask Him.

Ask this question: Father, how do you see me?

Then sit quietly and listen for spontaneous thoughts that enter your mind that don’t feel like your own. Or look for mental images that come to mind that seem to appear spontaneously. This is often how the Holy Spirit will respond to the questions we have for God. You may be surprised at what He says, but choose to believe His word over your own self-perception.

Some Doubted

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Matthew 28:16-17

Some doubted!?! Let that sink in! They stood in the presence of the resurrected Jesus and still doubted. What? This is the same Jesus that casted out all manner of demons, demons who couldn’t stand to be in His presence. This is the same Jesus who healed all manner of diseases. This is the same Jesus who conquered sin and death.

To me it begs the question, “Why wasn’t doubt obliterated in His presence?”

I believe the root of this reality is that Jesus refuses to override our free will. Our faith will never be forced. God is not a coercive or abusive God, forcing Himself upon people. Instead, God patiently waits for our “Yes.” It doesn’t have to be a big yes. It can be as small as a mustard seed. But He won’t force Himself upon us.

This means the opportunity to doubt will always be there. Even if the resurrected Jesus stood right in front of you, you would still have the option of doubting. You will always have that option. We will also always have the option to believe and not doubt. This is the beauty of it all.

If people can still doubt Jesus even when His miraculously resurrected body stands right in front of them, then people will find reasons to doubt any sort of miraculous event. The spirit of unbelief is a demonic weed that will find any crack in your heart and set down roots as soon as possible.

Faith is choosing to trust. And no matter what we face, no matter the impossible situation in front of us, we can always choose to trust God, to trust His character, to trust His nature. He is worthy of our trust.

Have the seeds of doubt found a way into your heart?

You Don’t Know What You Are Asking

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.

Matthew 20:20-22

Was it wrong for this mom to ask for good things for her sons? No. Was it an unreasonable request if Jesus was about to establish His earthy kingdom with a throne in Jerusalem? Nope. After all, her two sons were two of Jesus’s closest friends and companions. Was it an act of faith to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had the power to fulfill her request? Yes! It was a bold, faith-filled request, and we know God is pleased with those kinds of requests.

So, what was the problem?

The problem was that she didn’t know what she was asking.

I think that many of our prayers fall into this category, and we don’t even realize it. She didn’t realize that Jesus wasn’t yet establishing an earthly kingdom and that when His Kingdom comes “on earth as it is in heaven” it looks different than she was imagining. She didn’t realize that Jesus’s coronation would be His body nailed to a cross, a crown of thorns pressed down on His head. She didn’t realize death would precede His ascension to His throne. She didn’t realize the kind of Kingdom over which He would rule.

Garth Brooks popularized the saying, “Thank God for unanswered prayers.” And we should thank God for unanswered prayers because so many of our prayers have consequences that we can’t possibly foresee. Yet, God can foresee them. He knows that we don’t fully understand what it is that we are asking.

God can see that if we got that promotion how much traveling it would involve. He can see what it would do to our family. God can see that if He healed right now, one person would get better, but if He heals two years from now, 200 people will be impacted. God can see the weight and pressure that would come upon you if you actually got what you’ve been asking for. He can see how your heart would be crushed under the weight of responsibility. So while He’s preparing you for that thing, He loves you too much to give it to you right now.

Of course this isn’t true of all of our requests of God. But this is where trust comes into play. We aren’t going to automatically know which requests fall into the category of, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” We won’t know ahead of time, just like the mother of Zebedee’s sons didn’t know.

So we come boldly before the throne of grace with confidence and we make our requests to God (Hebrews 4:16). Then we trust God to fulfill our request or to adjust it as necessary. In humility, we need to be ready for God to tell us that we don’t really know what we’re asking and allow Him to reshape our request in line with what only He can foresee.

Are you willing to trust God even when your prayers aren’t getting answered the way you want?

Fighting by not Fighting

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah (the southern kingdom) in the time when Ahab was king of Israel (the northern kingdom). Armies from Moab and Ammon came to war against Judah, and King Jehoshaphat didn’t know what to do.

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:

“…Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, … a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

2 Chronicles 20:3-5, 12-17

There are times we need to put on the full armor of God, stand, and fight. We often too easily give up and give in. To be faithful to the Lord, there has to be a certain amount of fight in us. We don’t fight against people; we fight for people. We fight for the Lord. We fight not against flesh and blood but against our real enemy, Satan. Those who tend be passive and tend to retreat, hide, and avoid the fight need to learn how to fight.

But for those of us who are natural fighters, this passage above is a necessary correction. Some of us grew up with the message that no one was going to fight for us. And we learned early that we’d have to fight for ourselves if we wanted anything accomplished in this world. So we grew up fighting anyone and anything that tried to get in our way.

And even after we became Christians, we kept fighting for our rights, our cause. We fought anything that seemed unfair or unjust. We fought anyone that seemed to cross our boundaries or even our preferences. We started to become like a boxer beating the air.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air”(1 Corinthians 9:26).

God built us to be fighters. He wants us to be fighters. But in order to learn to fight the right things in the right way, we must learn how to be still and let God fight for us. We must reach a moment in our life when we realize the battle is too much for us. We must lean into dependence on the Lord. We must lay down our weapons and take up our worship. We must rest as we wait upon the Lord and watch as a battle we would normally race into resolves itself because the Lord went ahead of us and fought for us.

It reminds me of a scene from the movie Braveheart. William Wallace is totally out-gunned and outmatched by the British cavalry. His Scottish army waits as the cavalry advances at full speed. And instead of yelling, “Charge,” Wallace yells, “Steady…Hold…Hold…Hold…Hold…”

If they want to win the battle they must stand still. They must let the other army charge at full speed. And when the time comes, they will pull up long spears and stand their ground. The key to their victory is not fighting at all but instead, dropping their swords and shields, holding their ground, and letting the enemy ruin itself.

Sometimes, like Jehoshaphat’s army and Wallace’s army, we must do the same. “For the battle is not your’s, but God’s.” Sometimes we must “hold” long enough to let God move in and do what He wants to do. Sometimes we have to quell our natural tendency to fight, and instead trust. Trust that there is Someone who will fight for us. Trust that we don’t always have to be the one fighting for ourselves. Trust that the Lord will be with us, going before us, and fighting our battles.

Are you in a season where you are called to fight? Or are you in a time when the Lord is telling you to trust that He will fight for you?

The Wise and Learned

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Matthew 11:25-26

Pride and arrogance shut down our ability to receive and hear from the Lord. Jesus praises His Father for hiding the secrets of the Kingdom of God from the wise and learned. Access to the deep things of God doesn’t come through theological education or years of bible study. It comes through intimacy with Jesus, the kind of intimacy where we operate in faith like a child.

This is the danger of formal theological and biblical education. I was a biblical studies major in college. I went on to seminary to get my Masters of Divinity. I value theological education and I am so glad that I learned all that I did in those settings. But if one does not maintain faith like a child in those settings, it can become a trap.

I saw so many friends lose their faith in those schools. I saw so many other friends embrace doubt and skepticism. I saw classmates start to reject the very scriptures that they had previously built their lives upon. I saw identities change from “children of God” to “wise and learned.” And then they’d wonder why God felt so “hidden” from them.

In part, this happened to me. I fell for one of the enemy’s oldest tricks. The temptation is to exchange information for intimacy. The more information I got, the less intimacy I thought I needed. And while I didn’t come close to losing my faith, I did lose my confidence in the truth of scripture. By the time I left seminary, my faith was riddled with bullet holes of doubt, skepticism and cynicism. I didn’t understand how toxic it really was until years later.

It took a radical disruption from the Holy Spirit and a process of Jesus renewing my mind in order to set me free from the demonic chains of unbelief. As I had encounter after encounter with the living God through the power of the Spirit, my skeptical mind was washed clean. I had renewed faith in the reality of the Kingdom of God on the earth, the truth of the gospel, and the trustworthiness of the Bible.

A woman spontaneously spoke a prophetic word over my life months before the radical disruption of the Holy Spirit began. She said to me, “You will walk in the power of God like the disciples leaving the upper room, but lean not on your own understanding.” This word over my life has become true, but the chronology of it was reversed. I had to first “lean not on my own understanding” before I ever experienced the power of God.

In order for God to reveal to me His power, He had to strip away what I thought I “knew.” He had to strip away my titles of “wise and learned” and had to return me to child-like faith and trust in the Lord. These deep truths of the Kingdom are hidden from the wise and learned but revealed to little children.

Are there parts of the Bible that you’ve rejected because you are now wise and learned?

Where does God need to return you to child-like faith?

Demonic Faith

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2:19

In a polytheistic culture, there were some who thought it was enough to be monotheistic. They believed in the one true God, but they weren’t expressing that belief through obedient surrender to Jesus and faithful action. James was challenging their self-congratulatory complacency.

Demons believe in God. They know He exists. They believe in Jesus in the sense that they acknowledge His existence and are terrified of Him. They shudder at His name and squirm under His authority. They don’t like to be around God’s Presence or anyone who carries God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit. The fire of the Lord burns them and the Light of Christ blinds them. While they are completely comfortable around nominal Christians and at home in religious settings void of the Spirit, they despise Christians filled with the Spirit and on fire for the Lord.

I’ve heard a number of people say, “I believe in God; I just don’t like organized religion.” By this they usually mean they have a generic belief in God that doesn’t require anything from them and doesn’t impact the way they live life. Their “faith” without action is dead (James 2:26). This kind of faith is no occasion for self-congratulations or pride. This faith just barely reaches the level of demonic faith. This person has about as much confidence and trust in God as the demons. Not exactly something to be excited about.

James reminds us that just as our spirit expresses itself through our body, our faith expresses itself through action. To take active risks and live in obedient trust is the life of faith. To call oneself a competitive athlete and yet never do any physical activity doesn’t line up. Likewise, to call oneself a follower of Jesus and yet never express our faith through action doesn’t line up. At the very least we should challenge ourselves to have faith that surpasses that of the demons.