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I answered the call of the messengers, the call to arms. I did not hesitate to respond, immediately joining my buddies to follow the call of this Gideon. “This is our moment,” I said as we marched, joining thousands of others. I was tired of hiding from the Midianites, tired of the years of oppression. The Lord heard our cries and now Gideon would lead us to remove the stench of Midian from our midst. It was time to extract revenge on them.

Camped at the spring of Harod, I looked over the sea of men, as far as I could see. My best friend told me we were 32,000 strong. I smiled as I thought of the fear that must be present in the Midian camp. I looked north toward the valley near the hill of Moreh and imagined them frozen with fear, knowing we had come to even the score, to punish them for years of tormenting us. “Vengeance is ours this day,” I thought. “We have the strength here to save ourselves!”

Suddenly Gideon appeared and shouted something to the men. “What did he say?” I asked one of my buddies. “I think he said if we’re scared we can leave,” he replied. I couldn’t believe my ears. “That can’t be true!” I said in disbelief. “This is our moment.”

Then I saw Gideon wave his hand. A hush fell over the crowd of men. He repeated his statement as if to anticipate skepticism: “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” There was a moment of hesitation, then a handful of men started to leave. Soon hundreds followed them. “I’m outta here,” my buddies said. “Wait!” I shouted as I grabbed the arm of my best friend. “This is our moment!” He shook his arm free of my grip. “I’ve seen what those Midianites can do to us,” he replied as he picked up his things. “It was stupid of me to think I wasn’t scared of them.”

I watched in amazement as all my buddies left me standing alone. My heart sank as I watched a river of men pouring out from our camp. I sighed as I scanned the remaining men — a fraction of the force we once had. “Better to get rid of the cowards,” I reassured myself. “We are actually a stronger force now with brave men,” I convinced myself as I moved closer to the remaining men in the camp. Then I saw Gideon again. My heart raced. “Could this be our call to battle?” I wondered.

Gideon motioned to us to go to the water to get a drink. “Smart man,” I thought. I could tell he considered all the details. He wanted to make sure we would not grow faint from thirst as we went into battle. I followed the men into the water and knelt down to get a drink. The water refreshed me. As I stood up I noticed a few men cupped the water in their hands and lapped it like a dog. “They’re acting like an animal,” I mumbled. “What kind of soldier is that? They certainly can’t be a good soldier if they do that.” I watched as Gideon pulled those men aside. Apparently Gideon agreed with my assessment. But then he did something that astounded me.

There must have been about 300 men standing with Gideon when he announced that those men would stay and the rest of us should go home. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The men around me shook their heads and grumbled about Gideon. I had to agree with them. How could we possibly have a victory now with a few hundred men. I followed the other men as we started for home, so disappointed that Gideon had squandered this moment to beat back the Midianites. I stopped a moment and looked back at the small group of men standing with Gideon. “The dogs!” I thought as I turned and continued walking. “They’ll be slaughtered.” The man walking next to me nodded in agreement. “It will take an act of God to save them.”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a man who answered Gideon’s call to fight the Midianites, based on Judges 6:1-2, 6 & 34-35; 7:1-8 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

My heart races

In the tall grass

I make my way

Eyes wide open

Alert for sounds

I hear growling

A twig snaps

I am pursued

By my adversary

Once he held me

Tightly bound

With heavy chains

And a steel cage

Until my savior

Told me the truth

That I had the key

To set myself free

Once unlocked

I fled his evil grip

Feeling freedom

My heart overflowed

With pure joy

Yet his anger stirred

He came after me

Angry I was free

No longer a prisoner

Chained to his lies

He keeps pursuing me

Not wanting to let go

Hunting me in the dark

With flaming arrows

Shouting out lies

Hiding somewhere

In the tall grass

Waiting to pounce

But I press on

With the truth

Close by my side

With the key

Firmly in my hand

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Many were grumbling in the crowd. They spoke the very question on my mind.

Indeed, what he taught was very hard to accept. It drew a line between my life as a Jew and one following this new teaching. There was no middle ground. To choose one meant leaving the other. Apparently others felt the same.

There was an awkward silence among us casual followers of Jesus. I waited for his response. So often his words pierced me like a sword, to my very soul. He touched me deeply in a way I could not explain. There was something different about him. Yet I wrestled with what following him meant to my life. Already my family and friends were making comments about how much time I was spending with Jesus.

“Does this offend you?” Jesus said. “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”

How did he know? Once again he cut to the heart of the matter. I questioned myself if I really believed he is the Messiah. Could he be the Son of God like he claimed to be? I could feel his words penetrate me. “They are full of the Spirit and life,” I whispered to myself. Somehow he knew who was struggling with fully committing to him.

“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” I could feel something stirring in me to commit to follow Jesus, yet what would my family and friends say? I feared they would abandon me.

I watched as several of his followers turned and walked away. His teaching is hard. There is no middle ground. It caused people to choose — a new life with Jesus, or a life without him. I watched a couple of my friends start to leave. They stopped and motioned to me to follow them. I sighed and started to walk with them.

From behind me I could hear Jesus say to the few remaining followers, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Then I heard one of them reply, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” A surge of regret filled me inside, yet I continued walking with my friends.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a casual follower of Jesus who hears Jesus’ challenge in John 6:60-69 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

After the triumph of Easter morning, after the joyous celebration of your resurrection Jesus, it is Monday morning, the start of another week. Back to the work week, back into the world. This morning I feel like i am being thrown into the lions’ den. This morning I hear rustling in the tall grass — Satan on the prowl looking for someone to devour, devious eyes watching me (1 Peter 5:8). The reality of the world waits. I am being tossed into the lions’ den. I think of the king’s words in Daniel 6:16, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

Lord Jesus help us this day as we go out into a hostile world. Help us to focus on you, not the prowling lions with their hungry look. Let us reach out to you for strength and courage, trusting in you and not our own ability to defend ourselves. Help us to wait on you to close the mouths of the lions.

May we be found righteous in your eyes dear Lord and in the sight of others. At the end of the day may Daniel 6:22 be the words we share with those who ask: “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

© 2019 CGThelen

At the bedside, in the hospital we wait. Tubes and monitors hooked up to our loved ones, we wait for good news. We wait on God to bring healing; from the depths of our sorrow, we cry out to God for healing. Yet all we can do is wait; wait for the broken and ravished body to heal.

While doctors monitor our loved ones as they lay in the hospital bed, God monitors us; he knows our pain, our suffering, our sorrow. His one and only son Jesus was crucified, willingly sacrificed so that he could redeem us; so that we can be saved from the grip of sin and death.

We wait at the bedside of our ailing loved ones. We feel the pain of watching them suffer. We may even cry out, “God, why have you abandoned me?” But God is there. He is always there right by our side. Reach out to him and take his hand. Find strength and comfort in the one who knows your pain, the one who created you.

Dear God fill us with your hope, your strength, your peace. As we worry about the unknown, the future, may we find comfort in you. May those this day who are waiting at the bedside of ailing loved ones feel your peace surround them. May they know that God knows their pain. May they feel the hand of Christ Jesus upon them, the one who knows suffering and pain. May they find rest as they keep vigil over their loved ones day after day. In Jesus name we pray.

If you desire, share your joys and concerns in a comment so we can lift them to God in prayer.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

The day dawns

Fear rises from the east

Daylight emerges

Overtaking the darkness

The day is ahead

Yet I hesitate to enter it

Anxious thoughts

About a future yet to be

Sunlight spreads

Moving across the floor

Cold feet

Immovable as I grip the chair

Sunbeam advances

Warmth touches my toe

Distressed thoughts

Released as light moves along

Nervous body

Calmed as sunlight blankets me

Joyous praise

As the Lord Jesus takes my fear

New resolve

I rise and step into the day

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

© 2019 CGThelen

Sometime a certain passage of scripture jumps off the page and sticks with me for awhile. This week Psalm 118:6 stuck with me: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” This verse seems to resonate even more today as we start a new year.

Indeed, what am I afraid of in this world? If I truly believe in Jesus Christ, if I believe he is with me, I have nothing to fear. If I believe my eternity is secure with Christ, what can mere mortals do to me? There is nothing they can do to take away my salvation in Christ Jesus. They can seek to discourage me from sharing Christ, seek to thwart my ministry to others, but God is victorious.

Psalm 118:6 is a call to trust God, to keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He showed us how to stand up to opposition to the message of salvation. He showed us how to trust God and his plan for our life. Jesus taught us not to be afraid of mere mortals. May we seek to be bold with our faith in 2019 and trust in the Lord when we face situations that stir up our fear.

© 2019 CGThelen

Fear is an interesting thing. It can create great stress in the midst of troubles and cause us to panic. Yet fear can also protect us from harm and create a proper respect for authority. In Mark 4:35-41 we have the familiar story about fear where the disciples are in the boat with Jesus when a “furious squall came up (verse 37).”

At the beginning of Mark 4 Jesus pushed off in a boat on a lake to address the crowds pressed against the shore. Here he taught the parable of the farmer sowing seed where he explained to his disciples in verse 17, “When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” He continued to teach and then by evening Jesus and his disciples pushed off in the boat to cross to the other side of the lake (verse 35-36).

Here are the disciples with the son of God sleeping in their boat. They’ve just listened to a full day of Jesus teaching to large crowds. Who wouldn’t think it should be smooth sailing ahead with Jesus along for the ride? But in an instant a storm popped up and nearly swamped the boat (verse 37). Their faith is tested and their first response is to accuse Jesus of not caring what happens to them. A moment later Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, then he rebuked his disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith (verse 40)?”

Why are we so afraid of the people and forces of this world? So often we respond like the disciples in the midst of the storms that pop up in life by crying out to God to do something saying, “Don’t you care?” In the calm after the storm, when the disciples saw the power of God at work, then they had a fear of the Lord. “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him (verse 41)!’”

I find it interesting how in this passage Jesus took the disciples from fear of the storm to being “terrified” of him. They acquired a proper reverence of God asking, “Who is this?” We should have the same awe and reverence of our Lord, placing our fear before the Lord Jesus and resting in him in the midst of the storms of life. Joshua 24:14 tells us, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness (NIV).”

© 2018 CGThelen

I was reading Psalm 67 and verses 1-2 convicted me: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us — so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations (NIV).” Too often I desire God’s grace, his blessing, for myself. I seek to have his face shine on me so that I can feel his presence surround me and strengthen me. Yet in this Psalm, verse two tells us the purpose is so that God’s ways can be known on earth, that salvation would be “among all nations.”

I am reminded of Moses in Exodus 34:29-30. After he came down from Mount Sinai with the “covenant law” his face was “radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” This caused Aaron and the Israelites to fear Moses. It was apparent to them that he had been with God. It demonstrated what Israel was to be to other nations. The blessings that God bestowed on Israel were not for their own enjoyment, rather it was so that other nations would know God and his salvation. As the last verse of the Psalm 67 states, “May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.”

It makes me wonder if people look at me and see God’s radiance on my face, “the joy of the Lord” (Nehemiah 8:10). Do they sense God is at work in my life and feel a proper reverence, a fear of God. The blessings in my life, the abundant grace he gives me should flow into the lives of those around me so that “the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you (Psalm 67:5).”

© 2018 CGThelen

Fear can be a powerful motivator or hinderance in our commitment to following God, particularly when we are called to go to a new and unfamiliar place. The most difficult part is often the journey, the transition between your old place and the new place. There is a tension between the uncertainty about where you are going and the familiarity of where you have been. It is this in-between place where doubt and fear can take hold of us, where faith and facts compete with one another. This is where the Israelites were as they approached the land God promised them.

In Numbers 13 and 14 God instructed Moses to “send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites (Numbers 13:2, NIV).” The spies spent 40 days exploring the land and reported that the land “does flow with milk and honey (13:27).” But they also reported that “the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large (13:28).” This is the moment where fact and faith present themselves to the Israelites.

God has laid out a plan for your life, a journey that will lead you to “a land flowing with milk and honey (14:8).” With each new step, he asks us to follow him in faith. The challenge is to not do what the Israelites did and take your eyes off God, to not let fear take hold of you. In Numbers 13:33 there is a telling phrase where some of the spies say, “in our own eyes.” They could only see that they looked tiny, like grasshoppers, compared to a foe who appeared “stronger” and “of great size (13:31-32).” They were scared they would be crushed like bugs even though God assured them they would take the land.

God asks us to view things through his eyes, not the world’s eyes of things like power and riches. Sometimes he asks us to take a step of faith even when the challenges look insurmountable. That’s when we need the advice of faithful followers of God like Joshua and Caleb. In Numbers 14:6-9 they tell the Israelites not to be afraid, that the Lord will give them the land; that it is a good land; that the Lord is with them and they should not be afraid. Numbers 14:24 tells us that Caleb “has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly.” This is the type of counsel we need to encourage us on the path that the Lord has laid before us. If we let fear instead of faith dominate our actions, we may miss what God has in store for us.

Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. – Numbers 14:30-31 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

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