Conform Your Thoughts

Blue Giraffe Stamp Pic4By Barbara Neal

             I WAS ALWAYS HAPPY to pack Charles’ duffle, drop him off at the airport, pray for him while he was gone and be waiting at the airport gate when he returned from his missionary trips but I never had any desire to go with him.

He told amazing stories of far-away places where primitive tribes talked with unfamiliar tongues, practiced witchcraft, and ate exotic foods.

His testimonies of God’s incredible power were like stories from the Book of Acts… a witch doctor received Christ as Savior in Haiti, a woman slithered like a snake on the floor as he preached in Kenya, a blind boy cried out, “I can see, I can see!” at a crusade in Tanzania, and a crippled woman walked for the first time in more than twenty-two years in Honduras.

Foods too ghastly to describe challenged his digestive system. He slept on wooden benches and woven mats in huts and churches where vampire bats, rats, lizards, roaches and mosquitoes were his nighttime companions.

He crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans in large jets, and at other times his small propeller plane landed onto what was more like a goat path than a runway. He traveled up and down mighty rivers like the Amazon in little more than a motorized canoe.

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He has seen snow on the Equator, crossed the foothills of the Andes Mountains, and has viewed Mount Kilimanjaro from both the Kenyan and Tanzania sides.

He was imprisoned for two weeks after a glorious crusade in Haiti. God delivered him almost as miraculously as He did Peter as recorded in Acts 12. In Shinyanga, Tanzania he was interrogated at the police station. They accused him of being a spy for the United States government.

Presidential motorcycle guards shot at his bus in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, and militia with automatic weapons lined up along the back of the church in the mountains of Guatemala as he preached.

Charles always asked me to go with him as he planned his next trip but my answer was a firm and resolute ‘no.’ I just couldn’t imagine myself sleeping on a rough hewn wooden bench in a thatched-roof church where vampire bats lick your toes to anesthetize them before using their hypodermic teeth to get a snack. (That’s why Charles always slept with his boots on.)

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I have never been an adventurous person who enjoyed taking risks. I was content living back the long lane where grass grew between the tire tracks in the farmhouse built by my great grandparents in 1890. There was a bountiful garden and I had a small flock of Rhode Island Red hens that supplied brown eggs for the home-cooked meals that I prepared for my family in the humble kitchen.

Like Gideon who was in the winepress threshing wheat when the angel of the Lord appeared, my ordinary life was also about to be disrupted by supernatural forces, albeit less dramatic.

          “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto Him, Behold my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:12, 15)

I was reading this familiar passage during my devotional time one morning when God showed me that His image of Gideon was very different from the way Gideon perceived himself. It was true that Gideon was from the smaller tribe of Manasseh and his family was not very prominent, but God’s perspective was not derived by Gideon’s tribal heritage or family stature.

This teenage boy was created for a greater destiny and a larger purpose than hiding from the Midianites in the winepress, threshing a little wheat to keep his family from starving. Gideon was destined for a life of significance, but he felt inferior and unimportant.

Before Gideon would be faithful to God’s plan, he required several confirmations. They sound ridiculous… the dew on the fleece but not on the ground and then the dew on the ground but not on the fleece or was it the other way around. The phrase, “laying out a fleece,” comes from Gideon. Then there was the dream about the tumbling barley cake.

Gideon’s reluctance came from his wrong thinking. He had a formula something like this: My abilities plus experience plus training plus personality plus appearance equals how much God can use me.  God’s formula is quite different. His calculations goes something like this: Your willingness and weakness plus God’s will and supernatural power equals how much God can use us.

After this revelation about Gideon and his self image, God spoke to my heart, “You are not who you think you are.” (My self image was that of a little woman who lived back the lane, kept a garden and chickens and made flaky biscuits.) Then He said, “You are who I say you are. I have called you to be a teacher to the nations. Conform your thinking to what I have said.”

And so I did!

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Since that day I have learned that God specializes in working through normal people who believe in a supernatural God who will do His work through them. Like Gideon, I had to exchange inferiority and intimidation for confidence and trust in God. Ministering God’s Word in the nations around the globe with my husband has been more thrilling than words can express.

God has a global purpose and each of us fit into His plan. You have a role. God has given His children gifts. These gifts were not meant to be consumed on ourselves. His gifts, talents, and anointings are for the purpose of declaring His wonderful deeds and calling people into the kingdom of Heaven.

Gideon and I are not unique in God’s family. I believe that God is speaking to your heart about something He is working out in your life. Is He asking you to conform your thoughts to His Word? Your response will change your destiny just as it did for Gideon and me!

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