1/26/11

The Courage Rock

Hungry for the secret to courage, I listened as Dr. Ed Hindson shared the story of chicken-hearted Gideon. His story came alive at Gideon's Spring in Israel.

Shortly after Christmas, my husband and I toured Israel with Dr. Hindson and Dr. Tim LaHaye ~ two great men of faith, knowledge, and wisdom. The stories of the Bible will never be the same in my mind and heart because of the things I saw and words I heard during that exciting week. But it was at Gideon's Spring that God nailed down a much-needed truth.

As I entered the new year, I chose "courage" as a focus word and goal. So as I listened to the biblical story of Gideon, I listened for some clues to his courage against the enemy. What I heard was not the tale of Gideon's courage, but rather, the story of God's provision in a time of crisis.

God provided victory in the battle not because of Gideon, but in spite of him and his small, weeded-out band of men ~ "lappers," Dr. Hindson called them. God used simple tools - jars, torches, and trumpets to scatter the enemy. But the real power in the battle was God's presence. Judges 7:22 says, "...the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other...."

Several years ago at a Revival Week meeting, I heard Pastor Bill Elliff say, "Everything you need flows from the presence of God." And God was again drilling in that truth: "Everything you need, Dawn, comes from staying near to me and trusting in my presence. My power, My provision, my Peace ~ everything ~ flows from my presence. Your goal is simply to stay aware of my presence, dwell there, rest there, and operate from there."

I wanted some reminder of the message. I saw one of the girls on our tour leaning out over a broad, flat rock in the spring, swishing the water with her hand. (The lower part of the spring is pictured above.) I asked her to pull a rock from the water for me. At this point, my husband rolled his eyes, since I already had a rock from every site we visited in Israel and he wondered about the weight of our luggage going home. But I told him how important this rock would be, and he understood.

So my friend reached for a big rock, but I said, "No, that's not my rock. My rock is over there." She looked at me ~ questioning my sanity, I'm sure ~ but leaned out further over the water to retrieve the designated rock.

I smiled and looked it over. One side was green from the stream's bottom. Then I turned it over. Carved in the rock was a "C."

"Look. Look! There's a "C," I yelled, "a 'C' for courage!" And I told my courage story to everyone in our tour group. God not only spoke to my heart at Gideon's Spring, He also gave me a reminder for my desk back home. Not just a reminder of the day, but a reminder of the lesson.

I understood that courage comes from God's presence; it's not something I can effectively drum up from within. My courage won't last, but I will not be moved or cower in fear if I remember that God is my rock. He is the rock of my salvation, and He is my immovable rock of strength. He is my courage, and He goes with me everywhere.

Has God spoken to you in a profound, unforgettable way about His presence in your life? I'd love to hear your story, too.

1/19/11

"Eating" the Word at Jury Duty

Eight hours with total strangers in a big room of chairs ~ yes, it was my turn for jury duty again. I love to accept my civic duty when I get a summons, because I really do want to be on a case. I love to watch our legal system operate.

But I'm not too crazy about the long time spent in a room with people who are passing the time, many of them gazing at a clock. People get creative when bored.

Some read books. Bookshelves at the courthouse offer a variety, but most people bring their own. (I read the last half of a Christian novel, Valeria's Cross. It was a treat because I never have time for novels. The man next to me was deep into a book on business ethics. The lady across the aisle was reading a paperback about Weimariners. )

Quite a few people read the newspaper ~ and one worked the newspaper's crossword puzzle. I noticed that a regular puzzle was on a table at the back of the room. I didn't see anyone trying to fit pieces into the already-constructed frame, but the evidence of past completed puzzles was framed around the room.

The activities were as varied as the personalities. One lady knitted. Another did needlepoint. A college student worked on homework. A man watched a movie on his iPhone. Some enjoyed the Internet in a closed room to the side. One woman counted ceiling tiles. Another must have walked a mile, pacing.

But the person who got my attention was a middle-aged man in a plaid cotton shirt who read his Bible. The expression on his face was one of hunger and excitement. I was far enough away to watch him intently without his knowing.

Every time I saw him during our stay at the court house, he was wrapped up in the Word of God. I don't know whether he was a pastor or a layman, but I do know that he preached a message to me today. Unashamed to read the Word in public, he so deeply focused in the scriptures that the rest of the room could dissolve away and he would probably miss it. He didn't just read God's Word ~ he devoured it ~ as if he'd found a rare delicacy and couldn't get enough of it. Oblivious to others, he reacted to what he read. It was all over his face.

The scripture that came to mind as I glanced over at the man from time to time was Jeremiah 15:16a ~ "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight." We "eat" God's words as we appropriate them. (The Message says, "I ... swallowed them whole.") In other words, we embrace what God says and determine to obey Him. When we "eat," it's as if God gives us a sumptuous feast; and we rejoice and delight in Him.

Clearly, "man does not live by bread alone," but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3). Just as all humanity starves without proper sustenance, Christians starve without the "bread" of God's Word.

I don't think I'll ever forget the sweet intensity of that man in the courthouse. Devouring the Word. Delighting in the Word. Giving me hunger for the Bread of Life, too. How about you ~ are you hungry?

1/12/11

An Unexpected Lesson at Masada

The story of Masada is gut-wrenching to most people, but inspiring to the Jews and the nation of Israel. Masada is a rocky hilltop fortress south of Jerusalem on the Dead Sea. Fortified and supplied by Herod the Great around 36 BC as an escape site, Masada was occupied by some 900 Jewish resistance fighters (Zealots) including their families between 66 and 73 AD after Titus captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. As the Romans laid siege to the fortress of Masada, they built a ramp to scale the walls. The zealots' own relatives were forced to build the ramp so those within the walls would not pellet the Romans with stones to stop the construction.

The Jews, realizing the Romans would soon conquer Masada, choose to kill themselves and their families rather than become Roman slaves. Since Jewish law forbids suicide, the men cast lots to determine what 10 men would remain to the end; then these 10 men killed each other. The last man fell on his own sword ~ the only suicide. The zealots did not destroy their provisions, to make it clear to the Romans and others that they did not end their lives due to lack of food and water.

Two women and some children who hid in a deep cistern lived to tell the story, which was recorded by Titus Flavius Josephus in The Jewish War (c. 75 AD). Josephus recorded that the Romans could "take no pleasure" in their conquest, but rather wondered at the courage of the zealots' resolution.

For years, new IDF soldiers repeated a passionate rally cry after their swearing in: "Masada shall not fall again."

One cannot hear the story and see the majesty of the mountain without admiring the courage of the zealots.

But that is not the message that God gave to me at Masada. You see, all around the stonework of the area, there is a black painted line. Everything under the black line is original ~ thousands of years old. Most of the foundation is intact. Everything above the line, however, is reconstructed to give visitors a truer picture of what the site looked like in 70 AD.

As I stared at the walls, I thought, This reminds me of much of the organized church today. The foundations are there, but the "walls" of the church have crumbled through false doctrine, lack of biblical knowledge, or unwillingness to abide by the Word of God.

It was as though the Lord infused me with the "courage" of Masada, but with a different mission ~ to help rebuild the crumbling church so that my children and grandchildren will get a truer picture of what God intended for His people today and for future generations before His return. God will build His church; that is not my job. But I do have a part in restoring the walls, cracked and broken by the foolish ideas of modern man.

I'll never forget that black line. And no matter what else I do, I will share the doctrines of scripture, the Gospel of Christ, and the Christian worldview.

Note: A few years ago, I wrote a pamphlet for Revive Our Hearts Ministries (available in pdf form) titled "Learn to Discern: How to Recognize and Respond to Error in the Culture." It will help you stand against Satan's lies and not fall prey to the teachings of the new false teachers. It is also available in booklet form at Revive Our Hearts' bookstore.

1/5/11

A Warrior of Courage

I've been reading a little book called Now Is the Time that offers quotations, scriptures, and affirmations to help a person step out in faith, dream big, let go of the past ~ and this is my favorite part ~ move beyond fear into courage. The writer of Now Is the Time wrote, "Move beyond fear-based thinking and look at your life in the light of God's promises."

My focus for this year is courage, and the Lord is dropping all sorts of resources into my life on that topic.
It's almost like God is saying, "You want courage? Let me teach you all about it."

But I know that courage isn't something we learn in textbooks. Courage is developed in the crucible of trials. If I'm asking for courage, I'm asking for a shift outside my comfort zone and into the arena of struggle. I'm asking that God stretch me, knowing that He is good and He will not break me ~ except perhaps to break and then reshape me into His image.

Jesus invited us to follow Him, but made it clear the invitation came with persecution and a cross (Matthew 10:34; 10:38-39; John 15:20; 16:1-2). Paul warned that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus" ~ and that takes courage in our wicked culture ~ "will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).

Courage doesn't require that I die for Jesus in the United States ~ yet ~ but it does require that I am prepared to die for Him. I need to consider what courage might mean in various circumstances. Courage, one day, might mean simply speaking up to a store clerk at the Holy Spirit's promptings. Courage, another day, might mean taking a stand against a cultural trend, even when all my friends consider me odd. Courage means obeying God in spite of the results, and especially in spite of man's responses (Acts 5:29).

I didn't know, until recently, that the scriptures advise us strongly (commands us?) to "Be on your guard; stand fast in the faith; be courageous, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). Paul's words seem to echo God's instructions to Joshua: "Be strong and of good courage ... very courageous" (Joshua 1:6-7).

Moses told the Israelites to stand firm in the face of Pharaoh's pursuit (Exodus 14:13), and later, he reminded his successor, Joshua, that God would neither fail nor abandon him (Deuteronomy 31:6). God's promise of His presence meant power for Israel; and power (dunamis) and everything we need to battle evil flows from His holy presence within us ~ the Holy Spirit ~ today (Acts 1:8; 4:29-31; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 3:16-20).

I think that courage is something I need to pray for and seek, because it is not natural ~ at least not for me. I can't expect to stand for God in deep trial if I flinch under minor duress. Courage is fortified by faith in the One who does not fail us ~ the One who holds our lives in His hands. We live in the light of His promises, not our fears and doubts.

I'm asking myself hard questions. Is my faith unshakable? Will it stand in the enemy's attacks? Further still, am I prepared to wield the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God ~ sharing its freeing truth with those who are in bondage? I want to be a faithful steward of my heart, and prepare for battle.

How about you? What will you do this year to become a Warrior of Courage?