Choose Your Trap

Wouldn’t it be great if one good choice ensured the rest of your choices would be just as good?  Maybe if the reason we chose correctly was right, the rest of our choices would just as right? Then again, maybe not.  Here, again, we find choices leading to a sad ending.

Continue reading “Choose Your Trap”


Relational Religion

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

Religion: 1) The state of a religious (person); 2) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; 3) scrupulous conformity; 4) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Relationship: 1) The state of being related or interrelated; 2) the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship, such as: a) kinship, or b) a specific instance or type of kinship; 3) a) a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings b) a romantic or passionate attachment. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

You’ve all heard it, “It’s not about a religion, it’s about a relationship.”  You’ve probably even said it.  The problem is that it isn’t exactly true.

The truth is more toward a blending of the two than one over the other.  The way that Scripture describes the Creator and His people, there is both a relationship, and religious practice.  What is often missed, especially by the people on the pages, is that the the religious practice is about maintaining the relationship.

Not to oversimplify, but the practice of faith is mostly about “problem” and “solution”.  The problem is what’s wrong with our relationship with our Creator, and the solution is what’s being done about it.  Like a marriage, either we’re working on improving the relationship, or we’re letting it die.  Relationships don’t remain idle.

From the definition of religion above, there are two basic elements required: belief, and practice.  From the definition of relationship there are also two basic elements required: relation, and participants.  In Hebrews 11:6, we can find all four elements.

And without faith <belief> it is impossible to please Him <practice>, for he who comes to God <participants> must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him <relation>. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

Followers of Jesus exist in a religious relationship with Him.  It can also be said that followers of Jesus pursue a relational religion of Him.  He is the Participant, and the Object.  He makes the relationship possible, and we act out our belief within that relationship.

The primary problem is that He has the entire universe on his workbench as some sort of spinning decoration, and we’re infinitesimally small within that.  We can’t get out to Him, He has to come within to us.  It has to be our Creator who initiates the relationship.  We’re stuck with that.  What we do once He has is up to us.

But once in this relationship, we discover there are “rules”, that our Creator has established boundaries.  Think through that verse again.  We please Him.  We seek Him, and He rewards us.  The give and take elements of a relationship are there, but it’s truly about Him.  Why?

A relationship with our Creator has to be about Him.  He is “out there” where we can’t go.  It’s either His route or no route.  We won’t find Him accidentally, invade His space, or stumble through to His existence.  In order to get to Him, we need to follow His rules.

Sometimes people get so stuck on the problem that we have to follow His rules they forget He provided rules.  Think about that for a sec: The Creator of the universe provides a way for us to know Him.  We can’t get off this rock to get to Him (or anywhere, for that matter), and we pout because He didn’t provide the way we wanted?  We matter to Him, but that’s not enough.  Let’s be honest, we can’t be trusted to leave this rock.  We belong in a playpen.

But why do His “rules” include a cross?  Ah, yes, why indeed?  I’ll explore that next week.  Along with more of the “Gideon Saga”.

So, what’s your view of God through the fence?


Better to Feed

Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” (Judges 8:4-6 NASB)

Gideon’s 300 “mini-army” has crashed the pots, shook the torches, blown the trumpets, and saw the innumerable army of desert nomads chaotically rout from the few.  Now, pursuing two of their kings, they’re kind of tired.  It’s been a long hard day of slaying fleeing foes.  They could use a break today, and there’s no fast-food joint to be found.

As they pass by Sukkoth, Gideon asks the city for help for his weary men.  The response from the walled “secure” city is, “But you haven’t beaten them yet.”  What if we help and those kings survive and come back to punish us?  What if you fail?  What if…?  They’re afraid.  They fear the repercussions of doing the right thing.  After all, we know that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

So, Gideon promises them a “sign”, but after the fact.  Once his men have the heads of the two kings, Gideon will come back and punish them.  They’re not exactly afraid of 300 men, having just seen 15,000 camel riders pass by ahead of them.  And Gideon moves on, still tired, still hungry.

He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. (Judges 8:8 NASB)

So, now, having been refused twice by people of the “Half-tribe of Manasseh”, Gideon presses on after the two kings.  It’s very possible, highly probable, that these two cities had a lot to gain by Gideon winning.  So, why not help?  Seven years of these camel-riding “locusts” led them to believe it wouldn’t change because of 300 men.  And no one believes in God anymore.

We’re not that far from this situation now.  There aren’t enough people to make a difference, and no one believes in God anymore.  But, this is still early in the chapter.  The fight hasn’t ended yet.  And Gideon does defeat these kings with the 300.  On his return we have the following:

Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres.  And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.  He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'”  He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them.  He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. (Judges 8:13-17 NASB)

In our day, we’re distracted by the brutality, but the point then, as now, is that God did deliver victory with 300, in spite of nay-sayers, doubters, and quitters.  Those who refused to help didn’t prevent the victory, or even impede it.  Instead, they opted out of the blessings that were theirs for participation.  That’s what the writer of Judges intended for his audience to learn.  And that’s the lesson for us today.

That’s what I see through my hole in the fence.  What do you see?