Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Creating Awe and Wonder

I was reading about the Isrealites in my Bible in the book of Judges today. When a rag-tag group of desert dwellers is transformed into a Canaan-conquering army, you get a little surprised. These are not fighting people. These are just simple survivers. And not really that adept survivors either. It's not like they are hardened people. God's been providing food for them - manna and water. So don't go giving them that much credit. As far as fighting goes, they mostly do it amongst themselves in quarreling and grumbling. What do they know about warfare and swords and battling tactics? Nothing. Somehow God gets them through it and they conquer most of the land. Pretty impressive. But not for the people. For God.

Now they have the land and they get the cities and the vineyards and the farms and the good stuff handed to them. Pretty cushy again. So what do they do? They stop following God! They choose to worship some stupid idol worship. What's God to do? Here He's watched over them. Here He's taken them to this place of great blessing. Here He's done everything to set them up for great joy and great worship for Him. And they abandon Him and His laws! What a frustration!

So God hands them over to be attacked and overrun by the Midianites. And I mean attacked! Midianites everywhere! Mean ones. Brutal ones! In fact, the Israelites are driven from their homes and towns and forced to run to the hills and hide in caves. Their crops are ruined. Their livestock is stolen. They're starving in caves and hiding out for their lives. Is that what it takes to get their attention? Sometimes it is. Sad isn't it? That God has to take people to such extremes just to get them to examine their lives? What's going on here?

Then I think about my cancer and what God has had to put me through just to get my attention. Just to get me to wake up and think about my life. It's sad that I had to go through all of this just to get me to focus my life and wake up to the reality of Him.

I made a spiritual commitment today that released me from my fears. It took all of this just to get me there. But I finally made it. I gave up my life. I had been needing to say to God, "I'll give you my life" for a long time. But I couldn't do it. I was clinging to that last thing. I could face a number of challenges that might be put in front of me, as long as I didn't have to give up my life. As long as I would be healed. But now I sensed God calling me to trust Him with everything. My life. And now that I have, the fear has nothing to hang onto. What can you fear when you are ready to give up your life?

Well, that's just half the story, let me tell you the other half.

Gideon is a sneaky little guy. He the youngest in the family but even he can be of some use. He comes up with a way to mill flour in a old forgotten winepress. It's not perfect, but it works well enough to not get caught and to get some food for the family. You have to be sneaky with Midianites around ready to wipe you out. And they are everywhere. So you have be really quiet about the whole thing too.

All of a sudden a man appears and says, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!" What? Who's this? And would you please keep your voice down so that no one finds us here? But it's the Lord in disguise and He's calling Gideon to save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. He's even got a "plan" for Gideon. "Go in the strength that you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"

This is a "plan"? This is nothing! This is the sending of a sneaky unknown guy against an oppressive nation. Absurd to say the least! What is Gideon, hiding out in a winepress, just trying to survive supposed to do? He's no leader. He's a nobody. He's got no army. He's got nothing but a little flour on his hands. And a very surprised and scared look on his face.

But what do you know, amazing things can happen when people are obedient to God! Something happens that I never expected. Gideon sends the word out and Isrealite people start coming out of the woodwork. A gathering of fighting men begin to gather around Gideon. They are ready to beat back the Midianite oppression. They're willing to fight. And they come to fight. Lots of them. 22,000. Now that's an army! Let's go!

Unfortunately, the Midianites catch word of this and they start to form their army too. Not to be outmatched, they form an army under Zebah and Zalmunna of 120,000 swordsmen. I don't know if you can picture that. I can't really, but it sounds bad. These are trained and experienced fighting men. These are the kind you don't want to mess with. They know how to use their swords.

So what to do now. Do you attack with a much smaller army? Sounds pretty stupid to try.

God speaks to Gideon at this point. "We have a problem here. You have too many men." What? Too many? You mean too few. "No, too many." And God pares Gideon's army down from 22,000 to 300. "That's perfect," says God.

And with 300 men Gideon attacks the 120,000 men of the Midianite army. Supernaturally, they win and wipe out the entire army!

Now here's my question. Why would God take for a leader a nobody schmuck like Gideon? Why would God reduce the army of Gideon from 22,000 to 300? Why would God constantly increase the odds against Himself in such unbelievable ways?

So that everyone knows it was a supernatural God-thing! How completely unbelievable! Who's going to get the glory here? Gideon? The 300? No way! You have to know that it was completely a God thing! You have to! There's absolutely no other way to explain it! And that creates such a sense of awe and wonder that it blows you away! You're awe-struck.

Awestruck is where God wants us! Awestruck is where we need to be if we want to worship. You can't worship without some sense of awe. You can't be a follower of God without some sense of awe.

But we lose it in the ordinaryness of life. The day to day dulldrums. The ho-hum of our existance. And then how do we worship in an extraordinary fashion? How do we give the glory to God in our lives? We want to live in awe and wonder, but we find it slips through our fingers like sand. So we need to go back to the stories of God! We need to go back to the wonders He has done. And once again remember them and once again relive them and once again be reminded that God does amazing things through ordinary people for His glory.

O God, let me worship you with awe and wonder for the mighty things you do! Let me glory in Your strength! Let me brag about Your greatness! Let me boast in the greatness of You! Let my mouth hang open and my hands fall to my side. This is where worship begins!


At July 20, 2005, Blogger Professor S said...

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At July 20, 2005, Blogger Professor S said...

My name is Melissa Sawyer, and I'm a worship leader at Forest Grove. Since our women's retreat last winter, when I received a promise about God using me in ministry, I've felt there is to be a song that will act as my anthem so to speak, telling of God's awesomeness, telling of how awe-inspired I am by Him - using ordinary me. Gideon's story is amazing, more so what God did through him. There was one line, well a couple, at the end of your posting today that seem to capture that same awe. Let my mouth hang open and my arms fall to my side...those are the words of such a potential song... thank you for your openness in sharing. Marie (Hildebrandt) was right...God is using you and your words, your life, to inspire and awesome.

At July 20, 2005, Blogger kate said...

Pastor Harms,
Thank you for sharing your spiritual journey with the world through this site. I love the perspectives you bring to daily activities as well as biblical stories, such as that of Gideon, that I have read so many times that I have lost appreciation for the potency and grandeur of God's thunderous works. I came across this blogspot by chance (or providence) and have enjoyed following your thoughts about life as you grow in the Lord. As I have been in somewhat of a spiritual rut, I have grown by your insight. God is absolutely using you. Keep running the race and pursuing grace.
A friend,

At July 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dwayne......hope you, Janet and the kids are enjoying the smokies! We trust you're being "re-created" at Oshkidee. We enjoy checking the post and continue to be fed by your daily gleanings. B&K

At July 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much love and Prayers for you,Janet, and your family,
Darrel & Pat

At July 21, 2005, Blogger Steve & Melissa said...

What an encouragement you are to those around you! I am astounded at how positive you are and the approach you are taking to your situation. I respect you and admire you...and one day hope that I am able to be as upright and God honoring. I don't think you will remember me, but I used to work at Jimmy Java in Lawson Heights Mall and you used to be one of my regulars there. My name is Melissa Reid, and I attend Cornerstone Church, my father is Russ Reid. I always loved your smiling face and I can still picture it in my head now. I am so saddened to hear of your recent news. May God's love be SO real to you and your family. Your life is in his hands, and he always knows what to do! Isn't that a wonderful reassurance! I am reminded of one of my favorite verses that I have used over and over in my life, and it comes from Phillipians 4:6-7. "Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will gaurd you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." What a wonderful promise for you! Keep presenting your requests to God and his peace will gaurd your heart!

At July 21, 2005, Anonymous Twyla said...

I just went to see the new Living Hope website - it's beautiful, easy to navigate, and has great information. I just wanted to say that here because you showed me the prototype awhile ago :)


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