Victory!

I like winning. I wish I could say I always win, but I don’t. Sometimes I get second place. Okay fine… sometimes I lose. Have you ever met someone who always seems to win no matter what they are doing? Those people are so annoying inspiring. Whether it’s a card game or a basketball game, they seem to get the victory. Every. Single. Time. Which is great if you are on their team and not so great when you are on the other team.

There was a guy in the Bible like that. He just couldn’t lose. In fact, whenever he engaged in battle, the song “All I do is win” mysteriously played in the background. His name was David. Check this out:

1 Chronicles 18:6b The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

1 Chronicles 18:13b The Lord gave David victory wherever he went

This guy was a first class winner. So much so, that this statement is repeated twice in the chapter. David had victory. Wherever he swung his sword, victory. Anywhere he set his feet, victory. On any battlefield, victory. Now before David gets a big head about all this winning, let’s look at the three key words in these verses. “The Lord gave”  The Lord gave David victory. Because victory belongs to the Lord. 

So many people are living their lives in defeat. They live their lives in a constant state of struggle, anxiety, depression, and gloom. Hope is not here and peace is not present. Yet they struggle to find some semblance of victory. Even just a little one would suffice. Their efforts are strained until they can strain no more. There is nothing left in the tank. They couldn’t achieve it. There must be no victory left for them.

Yet the truth is this, THE LORD GIVES victory. He has called us to be a victorious people. He has brought us out of the darkness and into the light. He gave his very life, defeating death, not only for his victory, but also for ours. We don’t have to live in defeat any longer. We, too, can live in the victory that the Lord gives.

Proclaim this over your life today: The Lord will give _________ (insert name) victory where he/she goes. 

If you will walk in the power of His Spirit and in His truth, I believe that statement will be as true for you as it was for David.

Marvel’s “The Gadites”

If you’ve ever watched a Marvel film, you’ve seen the action packed fight scenes where a single hero is able to take on hundreds of bad guys. This hero possesses superhuman strength, or at least has really cool technology at his disposal (*cough, Ironman).  Watching those scenes makes us not only root for the hero, but it makes us wonder what it would be like to be one. What would it be like to have the strength to take on hundreds… no, thousands!? How cool would it be to fly or walk through walls or throw a shield at people and have it come back to you? Okay, that last one doesn’t sound cool, but I assure you it is.

All of these Marvel characters are fictional, but there were some guys in the Bible who could accomplish the same feats (minus the flying, technology, and green skin tone). They were commanders who fought with David, called the Gadites. These were some seriously legit warriors. So much so that I think that Marvel could make a movie about them. I can see it now: Marvel’s “The Gadites.” Hmmmm…. not a real catchy title.

1 Chronicles 12:14 These Gadites were army commanders; the least was a match for a hundred, and the greatest for a thousand.

Did I read that right? The worst, weakest, least capable fighter could take on a hundred guys. The best one could take on a thousand. That’s just flat out crazy! These guys were like Rambo but without the machine gun. I’m thoroughly impressed! David was, too, because he made them commanders in his army. You would do the same thing. After all, how nice would it be to have someone on your side who could take on a thousand enemy soldiers? 

But wait, you do! You have Jesus! You see, the fight we fight is not a physical one. It is spiritual. The Bible tells us that Jesus completely disarmed the the power of the enemy at the cross. He took on thousands and he won. That’s the same Jesus that you have on your side. You’ve got a warrior that is far more capable than the Gadites. He is more capable than Ironman, Captain America, or the Incredible Hulk. He is the incredible Jesus! And He is fighting for you!

Labels

I’m not a huge fan of labels. Ok, let me clarify. When I go shopping, a price label is a good thing. When I receive a package from UPS, I take a look at the label to see who it is from. When I am at an art store, the label helps me know what exactly the artist was attempting to convey with the painting. (I’m not much of a connoisseur, so the description helps.) So when I say I’m not a huge fan of labels, I’m really talking about labels that apply to people.

labelsweb

Let’s be honest; labels on people generally have a negative connotation. We don’t necessarily label people as “awesome” or “outstanding.” Instead, we label them as lazy, arrogant, self-centered, indifferent, annoying… should I stop? Those are the kind of labels that we put on people. It seems that God labels people, too. But it’s not in the way you think.

Exodus 39:30-31 They made the plate, the sacred emblem, out of pure gold and engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. 31 Then they fastened a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban, as the Lord commanded Moses. 

So here’s how it went down: they made this “holy to the Lord” label and fastened it to the garments of the priests. Now that’s a good label! Let it be known that God calls me holy! Watch out people, I’m holy to the Lord. It’s written right here on my uniform. That makes it true.

1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” You are chosen. You are a priest. You are a holy nation. You know what that means? It means you get to wear the uniform with the label, too.

God looks at you, His son or His daughter, and proclaims out over you: “HOLY!” You have been marked. You have been labeled. You have been set apart for the purposes of God. Wear your badge proud, my friends. Because the God of the universe sees you as holy. So be holy. Set your heart on it, set your mind on it. In fact, set your whole life on it. After all, Jesus set his whole life of attaining that holiness for you.

Wash your hands

Hand washing is important. We go through our days touching doors, handrails, and shopping carts. We shake hands and high five. We flush toilets and read waiting room magazines. Do you know what could be on all that stuff? Just wash your hands, people! Not like every five minutes or anything, but maybe before you put your grubby little fingers all over those McDonald’s french fries. Because if you don’t, you will die! Too far?

hand-washingExodus 30:17-21 17 Then the Lord said to Moses, 18 “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. 20 Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, 21 they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”

These guys seriously had to wash or die. It wasn’t just a passing comment; the Lord said it twice. “Wash your hands and feet so that you will not die.” Not catch a cold. Not get the flu. No… die.  I guess God really wanted the priests to be clean when they entered His presence. It makes sense, right? God is clean and so if we are to be in His presence, we are to be clean, too.

The good news is that elaborate hand and foot washing isn’t necessary for us to be in God’s presence. We don’t need a gold basin filled with water. We don’t need washcloths and towels. We just need repentance and we just need Jesus. Jesus is the wash basin through which we are cleaned and repentance is our response to the wash basin. We recognize that we have dirty hands that need to be cleaned. Jesus cleans. And because of his love for us poured out on the cross, we are made clean.

If you don’t wash your hands you might catch a cold. But unlike Aaron, you won’t die. Jesus has already done the washing. Receive in it. Bathe in it. Thank Him for it. Be clean!

When right things don’t fix wrong things

Genesis 28:8-9 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

backspaceEveryone messes up.  Sometimes we mess up on accident and sometimes on purpose.  There are those times when we didn’t know any better, but we were still wrong. For example, getting caught going 50mph in a 35 when you never saw the speed limit sign would be a mess up that was on accident.  If you are going 100mph, you are going to have a hard time convincing the officer it was a mistake.  You blew it, just admit it.

Sometimes we think can do something right to fix what was wrong.  And we can fix some of the damage. Other times, however, no amount of fixing will do the job.  You’ve heard the expression that 3 wrongs don’t make a right (which is odd because 3 lefts certainly do).  I would say that in the same way, 3 rights don’t fix a wrong.  A week’s worth of being a good person doesn’t repair a lifetime of poor choices.

Esau had a startling realization: he had married the wrong women.  The word on the street was that his dad didn’t approve of Canaanite women, which apparently he had married.  So in order to remedy the situation, he went out and found an additional wife.  She was a good wife, a good choice, the right kind apparently.  This will make dad proud.  Now I have the right kind of wife.  Just one question, Esau… what about your other wives?  How does marrying one right wife change the fact that you are married to a handful of wrong ones?  Short answer – it doesn’t.

Placing a drop of clean water in contaminated water doesn’t make it drinkable.  Doing one right thing doesn’t negate the 3 previous wrong things.  But many people approach God in this way.  They try to clean up their act before going to Him.  They make a point to be good the day before church.  Maybe He won’t notice all the other days.  We try to so hard, but we need to realize that all these right things don’t fix the wrong things.  There’s just one solution: Jesus. Jesus fixed all the wrong things.  He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.   He made right what we had made wrong. He is our saviour, our fixer; He is all that is right.

*Are you trying to fix all your wrong things on your own?  Turn it over to Jesus and let Him make it right.

Bad negotiation

Genesis 23:10-13 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give  you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.” Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

NegotiationHave you ever negotiated something before?  I have, plenty of times.  I have negotiated cars, musical instruments, and random stuff in Mexico.  Here’s how a negotiation is supposed to work: the buyer looks at the seller’s price and offers less.  The seller counters with a higher price and the buyer counters again with a lower price.  Generally you meet in the middle somewhere.  Recently, I was negotiating on something and the seller actually ended up coming in below my starting price.  Holla!

This negotiation in Genesis 23 is just plain odd.  Abraham asks if he can buy some land to bury his wife who has passed away.  A guy named Ephron says, “You can have the land, Abe.  We really like and respect you, so just have it.  It’s all yours.”  Now any rational human being would simply say something like, “Thanks Ephron.  That’s very generous of you.”  But instead Abraham says, “No. I want to pay for it.”  I don’t think Abraham passed his Negotiation 101 class at community college.

So why would Abraham insist on paying for something that he could have had for free?  I think it was because Abraham knew that something of value costs something.  He knew that someday when Ephron wanted to change his mind on the land, he would be able to hold up the receipt and say, “I paid for this, you can’t take it back.”  Yes, things of value are worth paying for.

Jesus paid for something of value, too.  He paid for you.  It was a bad negotiation, really.  You had nothing to give in exchange, nothing to offer.  But He knew that you were worth everything, so He laid down His life for you.  He purchased your life and your freedom.  You are like that land that Abraham bought – you have value.  And like Abraham, Jesus wants to hang on to you forever.  You were worth a bad negotiation.

*What goes through your mind when you think about what Jesus did to pay for your life?

The deadline

Genesis 7:1-4  1 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made. ”

AA009358I used to work really well with the pressure of a deadline.  I remember being in school and working full time.  Assignments would be given and I might have procrastinated a bit… but when the deadline was approaching, it was go time.  I would kick into some weird high gear and crank out quality work.  It was like a late night superpower or something.  I have since lost that power.  Deadlines kind of stress me out now.

Noah had a deadline.  But his deadline wasn’t the difference between an A and a F on a homework assignment.  This was a matter of life or death.  God was going to flood the earth in seven days and Noah needed to be ready.  His instructions were clear and the Bible says that he followed those instructions.  At the end of those seven days, Noah was ready.  I imagine he was hanging out on the ark with his family and those animals waiting for the rain to come.

I wonder if things would have been different if Noah wasn’t given the deadline.  Like what if God said “I am going to flood the earth someday.  When it comes, be ready.”  After a few weeks or even years, would Noah have become complacent and forgot about this huge flood thing? Would he procrastinate gathering up the animals?  Or would he have woke up every day of his life determined to be ready if today was the day?  I just wonder.

Because God has made a promise to us and gave us instructions too.  The promise is that Jesus is coming back and the instructions are to be ready.  The stakes are high and life and death is at hand.  It’s not animals that need to be brought on to the ark, it is people.  People who, if not brought on board, will die.  If we knew we had seven days, we would be doing everything within our power to get ourselves and others ready.  But we don’t.  And if we don’t, His return will catch us by surprise.

*What are you doing to be ready?