When You Feel Inadequate and Overwhelmed

Judges 7

March 1

If you’re like me, you can definitely relate to the story of Gideon. He feels completely inadequate to carry out the commission that God has given him, to defeat the invading Midianites. He constantly asks God for a sign that He has really chosen him for this task (6:17, 36-40), and God responds each time. Then, the moment finally arrives for Gideon to do what God has commanded him, and God tests his faith even more. He takes the Israelite army and shrinks it from 32,000 men to 10,000, and then to just 300… and they didn’t even have real weapons! (v. 16) Gideon literally has no shot of destroying the large army of Midianites, about 120,000 men, at least from a human’s perspective. Yet, God does what He says He is going to do, and Gideon and his 300 men are successful in delivering the people from the Midianites.

How many of you have felt like Gideon did? God has called you to a pretty monumental task, one that you feel ill-prepared for, and yet He was faithful to get you through it? Especially as a pastor, I feel this deeply on a daily basis, as almost all pastors do. I feel this as a husband and father, called to take care of my family without much clear guidance on how to do just that. I feel this just as a Christian, called to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world, but not always knowing how that works. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by what God has called you to do, you’re not alone; and God is faithful to work with us.

-Talon Paul

Questions to Consider

  1. Is God calling you to something bigger that you think is impossible? Take a moment to pray for peace and the faith to believe that your Father will get you through it. Follow through with His plan and He will be with you.
  1. Are you overwhelmed by what is going on around you right now? Take comfort in Gideon’s story. God always takes care of His people, even if the answers aren’t immediately available.
  1. Do you feel inadequate? You’re not alone. Over and over again, God chooses the most inadequate people in the Bible for His mission, so that He gets all the glory. You are exactly the right person that God wants.

Compare and Contrast

Judges 9-10 and John 8

The people wanted Gideon as king. He declined but Gideon named his son Abimelech (Judges 8:31), literally “my father is king.” So while Gideon had refused the crown (8:23), he had also subtlely claimed it by having a son whose name was “my father is king.” This Abimelech, no doubt exalted by the experience, further exalts himself and betrays his father’s legacy at the insistence of the people of Shechem (9:1-6), killing seventy brothers on one stone (9:5). One brother, Jotham, is not killed, and Jotham curses Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem for their betrayal (9:7-21). 

Abimelech only reigns three years (9:22), and God causes “bad blood” to grow up between him and the leaders of Shechem (9:23-25). They find another leader to betray Abimelech now, Gaal son of Ebed (9:26). Zebul, the ruler of the city, hears of the plot, warns Abimelech, and Abimelech sets an ambush (9:30-45) and ends up burning to death 1,000 men and women of Shechem shut in a tower (9:46-49). 

He tries the same thing again at Thebez (9:50-52), but now aware of his tactic, a woman drops a millstone on his head, mortally wounding him (9:53), so he calls his armor bearer to kill him so that people would not say he was killed by a woman (9:54).

Fast forward to the beginning of John 8 and you have a woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees bring this woman to Jesus and ask him what they should do. He says anyone who is without sins let him cast the first stone. All of them dropped their stone and walk away. Leaves only Jesus left with the woman. He says go and sin no more.

There is a lot of similarities in these stories. The principle that I took out of both is that stones wound! Silly I know but true. Arrogance hurts too. There is a lot of arrogance in both of these stories. Arrogance tends to start when we think we have more power than someone else. Do you feel you have more power than someone today? How do you use that power? That influence. We all struggle with that desire to be above someone. To want to control someone. But the one person that could control us, overpower us, bring us low – chose to die for us instead. What does that tell us? How can you give up some of your power this week? How can you be a servant to someone else? It takes losing some power, control and it takes time. But Jesus calls us to that. Are you up to the challenge?

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 9-10 and John 8

Questions for Me

From His Stories

Joshua 5-6 and John 6

When you read the Bible, what do you read it for? Is it merely a collection of stories? Great history? Interesting information? Or are these stories more than that? Do they give us something that will open us up to the Creator of the universe? Will it speak to our thought and memories and give us understanding? We can and should live our lives and order our memories not only historically but theologically, not simply recollecting what happened or what we did but searching out what God was doing. This keeps us from over honoring ourselves in success or despairing in our struggles. Part of the key to enjoying peace is to be continually praising the Lord for what he has done and is doing for us because the stories we read and tell of our lives are not so much about us but about Him. Are you reading to find the principles in the story? Or reading it like a homework assignment?

Today’s devotion is taken from John 6 and Judges 5-6. Some of the greatest stories and life lessons ever written about are in these chapters. Did you read the story of the feeding of the 5000 and see Jesus bring his disciples into responsibility when he asks them, “Where shall we find bread for these people to eat?”. What does that say to you? Or how about when Jesus walks across the lake! Can you imagine the disciples’ fear, amazement and awe? Who is this Jesus? Matthew even records that Peter walks out to see him. What faith! What courage! And then to sink and have Jesus say, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Or how about in the Old Testament when Gideon lays out a fleece and gets an answer and asks again? Did he not like the first answer? Did he doubt? Was he afraid?

So many questions arise from these stories. So many principles to glean from them. Are you wrestling with them? Do you search for God in them? Do you see what God wants you to know? Don’t rush reading these stories but find God in them and use that to understand him more. Happy reading and may you draw closer to God as you work through all that God has to say to you.

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 5-6 and John 6

God is with me

Tuesday – Judges 6-7

Judges Devotions-2

I could tell you the story of Gideon in my sleep, but probably only in Spanish. For the past couple years, I’ve told many groups of children in different cities throughout Peru the story of Gideon. Each time, we make torches like the ones Gideon’s men brought into battle. Whether we’re gathered at a local park, a giant school assembly, an alleyway on a busy street, or a kitchen table, we all shout enthusiastically, “Dios está conmigo!” which means, God is with me. The pure joy and conviction in the children’s echoing voices give me shivers each time. The God who was with Gideon, is with me, with you, and with hundreds of children in Peru.

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Reading the story of Gideon again today, I am amazed by how God defies human logic; His ways often seem mysterious to us, but they lead to victory. Of all the people to raise up an army to fight against the Midianites, God picks Gideon, a self-proclaimed runt of the litter from the weakest clan in the whole city. He looks at Gideon and says:

The LORD is with you, mighty warrior. (Judges 6:12)

Gideon’s response to God’s calling is laughable:

Pardon me, my lord. (Judges 6:13)

He talks to God’s angel like he just accidentally bumped into someone at the grocery store. Gideon’s hesitation continues, as he asks God for a handful of signs, involving a goat, bread, and fleece. When Gideon is finally sure that God is indeed with him, he assembles an army of 32,000 men. God, however has a very different plan. With just 300 men armed with trumpets, jars, and torches, God leads His people to victory, conquering the Midianite army of 135,000 well-equipped soldiers. The same God who triumphs over seemingly impossible circumstances is still at work today.

I, like many of you, entered the year 2020 with the word “vision” on the mind. To me, vision meant clarity and a plan. I was hopeful that this would be the year I would “figure everything out.” In these past few weeks, everything I thought I knew, everything I planned, has been thrown out of the window—all because of a virus I didn’t see coming.

Much like Gideon, I’m scared, uncertain, and don’t understand what God is doing (yet). So maybe 2020, the year of vision, wasn’t a promise for answers, but rather a challenge of your faith. Will you seek God’s provision and plan for your life? Will you cling to Him when everything else is shaky, foggy, and unknown? Will you trust that He is present even if His ways don’t make sense to you yet?

For the next few hours, I challenge you to not look at the latest news headlines or CDC guidelines; instead, rest assuredly in this simple truth:

God is with me.

 

Mackenzie McClain

 

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+6-7&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Judges 8-9 as we continue seeking God in His Word on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Battle Cry

sunday dec. 31

We are in the midst of war. This war was waged about 6,000 years ago when Adam and Eve committed the very first sin. The fruit they ate was the gateway for sin to enter the world. God and sin do not peacefully coexist, because “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  This war, like any war, is made up of battles and tomorrow, the beginning of 2018, marks a new battle. Are you ready?

Every battle needs a battle cry— a word or phrase cried out by the soldiers going into combat for the purpose of uniting your regiment and intimidating the enemy. One of my favorite battles in the Bible happens in the book of Judges. The Israelites have lost their leader, Joshua, leaving them in a vulnerable place. Over and over in the book of judges the Israelites repeat the cycle of falling into sin, becoming oppressed by another group of people, calling out to God for help, being delivered by a judge (not the kind that carries a gavel, think more of like a temporary Superman), and finally enjoying a time of peace. Our story begins as the Israelites have been given into the hands of the Midianites, who are notorious for invading the Israelite’s land, destroying their crops, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. The Israelites are now so impoverished and helpless that their only option is to cry out for the God of their ancestors. Hearing their cries, God appoints a man named Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites, telling Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).

After a bit of hesitation, Gideon gathers an army of 32,000 men. As he prepares to bring them into battle, God nudges Gideon, telling him that he has too many men. If Israel were to win, they would think it was because of their own power and not because of God’s almighty power. Gideon tells his army that if anyone is scared they can turn back now. 22,000 soldiers left, while only 10,000 remained. With only a third of Gideon’s army remaining, God still says there are too many men, so Gideon takes his men down to the water. Every man who drank from cupped hands, lapping like a dog was allowed to fight, but every man who got down on their knees to drink were sent back home. Gideon’s army now consists of 300 men (who are probably at this time pooping their pants in fear). These men were not given traditional weapons; instead, they had trumpets and jars with torches inside.

In case you’re lost, here are the numbers: 135,000 well-equipped Midianite soldiers stacked up against 300 Israelite soldiers holding trumpets, jars, and torches. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the Midianites. Regardless, Gideon and his teeny-tiny army surround the Midianite camp just as the Midianites were changing guard. Suddenly, all 300 Israelites blow their trumpets, smash their jars, and yell their battle cry, “For the LORD and for Gideon!” Mass chaos ensues. The Midianites are now the ones pooping their pants, crying for their mommies, and turning on each other with their swords. That’s right, the Midianites defeat themselves while the Israelites stand back and watch.

The first step to being battle-ready is having a battle cry—a shout for solidarity and to frighten the enemy (bonus points if you make them poop their pants). Throughout the week, we will be covering words to adopt as our own battle cries in 2018. These words will strengthen us, unite us, give us courage, and intimidate the enemy. The enemy has waged war; our only option is to fight back, mighty warrior.

The whole story of Gideon defeating the Midianites is found in Judges chapters 6 and 7. Seriously, read it all. It’s full of so much juicy goodness.

 

~ Mackenzie McClain

A New Name

Tuesday –

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Yesterday we talked about labels.  Let’s take a look at some labels of folks we see in the Bible.

Gideon labeled himself the weakest member of the weakest clan of Israel.  Yet God’s angel addressed him as “mighty warrior”.  Now, he didn’t immediately become that mighty warrior, but he did eventually grow into his new name. (Judges 6)

We see other times in Scripture when people are given new names: Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, and Paul, for example.  And each time, the new name carries a new purpose.

Let’s look at Peter.

 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17-18)

I think it’s interesting to note that AFTER Jesus gives Peter his new name and new purpose, Peter STILL fails Jesus (repeatedly).  It takes him time to grow into this new name.

We all have this idea that once we accept Christ, or once we really commit ourselves, or once we decide to live to please God for real — that all of the sudden our trajectory will be consistently up.

Unfortunately, just like Gideon and Peter, we are human.  We fail.  We fall down.  We screw up.

But, just like Gideon and Peter, if we get back up and keep trying, we will keep moving upward.  Sometimes, we need someone to remind us of our new label, our new purpose.  So, I’ll remind you:

You have greatness inside you.  It’s time to act like it!

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  Do you ever feel like your best just isn’t good enough?

Don’t Just Skip It

Psalm 106-108

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Friday, January 13

It’s amazing, when you love a book or a movie how much you can pour over it to soak it all in. In nerd culture, of which I am most decidedly a part, people discuss and debate and argue over things we find in the stuff we like. There are always questions as a matter of taste (changing something from book to movie form and how books have a 99.999% chance of being better). In the universes we love, there are strange theories. (Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars is a Sith Lord, or so some people say). There are even theories for Children’s Films (I personally believe that the Troll’s cursed Prince Hans into his betrayal of Anna in Disney’s Frozen.) While you may think these are dumb or take them super serious, they all hold something in common. The people who make up fan theories have poured over the source material so they don’t miss anything.
It’s hard to do this when we are reading through the Bible in a year, but the same thing happens in Scripture. When you know a general idea of the whole story, little details pop up that are fascinating. Notice that the children of the cursed Ham happen to be Egypt, a nation of oppressors, and Canaan, the ones God commanded the Israelites to kill. (Gen. 11) Today’s reading does the same thing. These verses are Psalm 108:7-9. I know I have tended to read them like this: “I will divide up [bad person/place], I will apportion [bad place]… Judah [I know that good place] is my scepter, [bad place?] is my wash basin.” You get the idea. But that is a sad way to read it. Don’t miss what God is trying to tell us.
—Shechem was a terrible man who did a terrible thing to a woman in Israel. (Gen. 34) God gave victory to the sons of Jacob over Shechem. God is saying I will divide up and give to my holy ones the land/wealth of the evil.
— The people of Succoth did not help Gideon, the valiant warrior of God. God gave victory to Gideon in multiple ways, one being humiliating the princes of Succoth and killing the men of their towns. (Judges 8) God will grant victory to his people over their enemies.
— By referencing Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah, God is saying that Both the Northern and the South Kingdoms are his. If David wrote this psalm, then it is a condemnation on the Northern tribes for breaking away from the rulers in Judah.
— Moab tried to stop Israel from dwelling in the Land God had promised to them and God struck them down. Edom also refused to allow Israelites to travel through their land.
— The Philistines (descendants of Egypt, according to Gen. 10) were what seems to be the arch-rivals of Israel’s claim on their ancient Land.
Just getting a small amount of information opens up so much about the text of the Bible. The truth is that it is good to read fast and cover a lot of material, but it is also good to read slowly and deeply and soak it in. Don’t let one overshadow the other, because if you read a lot it will help you read deeply. So, the next time you come to a list of names, or a bunch of cities, or weird visions, DON’T SKIP IT. Who knows what God expects you to find?
-Jake Ballard
(Photo credit: http://www.psalmsquotes.com/psalm-107-14-quote.htm)

Our Doubts & Fears in the Light of an Awesome God (Judges 6-8)

Sunday, October 2 – Start of Week 11

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Shelby Upton

In Judges 6-8 we see the Israelites in a place where they had turned from God and had been handed over to the Midianites. Gideon, being the judge and spiritual leader, is working to bring Israel back into God’s favor. Throughout these chapters we see a theme of doubt and fear. Not too different from the feelings and struggles we all face today. But the amazing thing we see from Gideon is the way he lays it all down to God. And God shows up! Over and over again proving his awesome power and doing it in the face of even more amazing odds. Whether it was defeating the Midianites with a fraction of the Israelite army or the miracles performed with Gideon’s fleece. In the face of our doubts and fears we serve an awesome, loving God who comes through for us time and time again when we lay it all at His feet.

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