The Red Jersey Team

I like a good pickup game. Basketball, soccer, football… doesn’t matter. It’s just fun to compete. It gets the heart rate going, the blood flowing, the body sore. All that good stuff. The problem with a pickup game is trying to remember who is on your team. It’s fairly simple if there’s only a few players, but it takes me a while to get the hang of it if there’s several people. That’s why when I’m coaching youth soccer, I have the kids wear practice jerseys when we scrimmage. Otherwise, they start passing the ball to a kid on the other team. Well that do that regardless, but you get the point.

red-practice-jerseySo on go the practice jerseys. This side gets to wear the red ones. That way you will know who is on each team. If you came to practice in a red shirt, then you are on the red team. That’s just how it works. You’ve now been marked. You are a red. Ready, set, play!

In the Bible, Aaron was marked, too. In fact, he even wore the red jersey. Sort of. He was actually marked with blood. Check it out.

Exodus 29:19-21 19 “Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 20 Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar. 21 And take some blood from the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.

They were marked for a team – God’s team. They were consecrated because of the red jersey blood. To consecrate means: to make or declare sacred, to set apart or dedicate. This is what they were. They were marked, dedicated, declared sacred. This moment in their lives was the moment that defined their service to God. They had been chosen, they had been set apart, and they had been declared sacred by the blood.

You have, too. Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. For every single magnificent part of you… also for the not so magnificent parts of you. You are covered, in a figurative sense, by the blood of Jesus. You have been marked as holy by His sacrifice! You too have been chosen. You have been set apart. And you have been declared sacred. Receive that today. Embrace it. Let it determine your worth and your thoughts and your steps.

You are wearing the red jersey. You are on His team. Now go get in the game!

Table scraps

Malachi 1: 13-14 “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

table scrapsMy dog loves table scraps.  If she wants a good treat she sits by my wife.  She knows who is going to hook her up.  But it gets even better after a meal.  If there is a little meat left over on a plate, she is going to get the treat of her life.  Yes that’s right, random food off several plates.  It may seem gross to you, but it is a dog’s heavenly buffet.  She’s not picky, either.  She will take just about anything!

God… not so much.  He doesn’t want table scraps.  He doesn’t want the leftovers.  He makes this abundantly clear in Malachi 1.  Now keep in mind that He is speaking to Israel in regards to their command to keep the law of the Lord.  They were required to bring a sacrifice to atone for their sins.  It seems like it really ticked God off when they would give Him their table scraps.  They were expected to give Him their first and their best.  But what was happening was that they would find the sheep that was pretty much worthless and needed to be killed anyway and give it to Him.  That’s no sacrifice at all!  That’s just pawning off your crap to God and calling it a sacrifice.  

I wonder if we do the same thing sometimes.  We give God our leftovers and call it a relationship.  We forget our lunch at home and call it fasting.  We pray over our food at dinner and say we’ve spent time in prayer today.  We read an inspirational scripture verse that someone posted on Facebook and call it time in the Word.  Uh, no.  That’s table scraps.  There’s no work, no sacrifice in any of that.  God asks us to put Him first, to give Him our best!  So don’t bring Him your lame, diseased, injured sacrifice.  Instead, truly put Him first and give Him the best of all you’ve got!  Not because it’s required by law, but because it is what He deserves.  I think you will find that when you give Him what He deserves, tremendous blessing will flow into your life.

*Are you giving God table scraps?

Just shhhh

Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.

shhhhSome people like to talk… a lot.  There are people who can talk their way in or out of anything.  They can get a speeding ticket dropped or get into a theme park for free.  I don’t know how they do it, but they obviously have the gift of talk and persuasion.  Sometimes you just want to tell those people: shhhh.  I don’t need to hear your excuses; I don’t need to hear you reasons.  Just shhhh.  And sometimes we are those people to God.  We think we can talk our way back into His graces.  We think we can convince Him that we aren’t really as bad as we are.  We think that we have to prove ourselves to Him in order to be accepted.  But He says, shhhh.

The reason?  Because there’s nothing we can do to measure up.  There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more.   Indeed, the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.  He sent His Son to sacrifice His life for you, so you didn’t have to do all that talking.  You don’t have to try to persuade God into accepting you; you just need to accept His Son.  No more carrying on.  No more elaborate speeches or convincing arguments.  Just grace.  He provided it, you accept it.  It’s that simple.

So shhh.

It’s going to cost you

2 Samuel 24:21-24  21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.” 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.

Nothing in life worth anything is free, is it?  That free service you signed up for has a catch.  That free food tastes like, um, not food.  That free trial program just billed $19.95 to your credit card.  Check the fine print, people.  Free has an ulterior motive.  But we like free – it is enticing and it is easy.  Free doesn’t cause us any pain; it doesn’t cost.  Relationships aren’t free either.  Sacrifice, compromise, and time are all a part of relationships.  You have to give something of yourself to have a great relationship.  That isn’t a bad thing, it just costs you something.

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  This reminds me of the story Jesus told about the widow who gave her last coin to the Lord.  He compared her to those with great wealth who gave more in quantity.  But they gave out of their excess; it didn’t cost them all that much.  For the widow, it cost her everything.   And David understood this heart approach to God.  He was at a place of repentance and he wanted to get right with God.  He knew that if someone just provided all the stuff for his sacrifice, it would be too easy.  He needed to feel the pain of loss.  He wanted to let God know how truly sorry he was.  So he insisted on paying something.

As much as I don’t like saying it, walking with God is going to cost me something.  It is going to require my time as I sacrifice to make time with Him.  It is going to cost money as I commit not only to responding to Him in obedience by tithing, but by being His very hands and feet and giving to the poor and needy.  It will certainly come out of my lack, for I have no overflow… neither of time or money.  It will cost me my flesh, too.  It will cause me to give up my selfishness and pursue His thoughts about my day.  It will require that I put Him first and me last.  But it’s all worth it.  Like David, I don’t want God to just get what is left over in my life; I want to give Him my best.  Even if it costs me my comfort.

What God is after

1 Samuel 15:20-22 20 “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”  22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Outside of the concept of the physical sacrifices of the Old Testament, this scripture reference might seem a little strange.  Imagine trying to teach it to your kids… “Son, to obey is better than sacrifice.”  Your son then teaches his little sister, “We better obey daddy because he is going to sacrifice us.”  To which she cries, “Why would daddy kill us?”  Please make sure to be clear when teaching your kids concepts out of the Old Testament.

Regardless of the potential mix-up, this is a very important concept.  In this scenario, Saul thought he was doing a good thing.  I mean, he didn’t do exactly what God asked, but he thought he would go above and beyond and keep some stuff for a burnt sacrifice to God.  The problem is that God clearly instructed him to keep nothing.  God didn’t want a sacrifice from Saul – he wanted him to follow instructions. 

We probably attempt to make these kinds of peace offerings with God too.  He calls us to something big and we compromise by fasting TV or something.  He calls us to stop living in sin and we respond by going to church more to feel better.  But He didn’t ask us to sacrifice something, He didn’t ask us to fulfill a religious obligation; He asked us to obey.  And we need to learn that following His instructions are far more important than trying to do a bunch of other things that we think are the appropriate religious measures.  He is after obedience and He is after our hearts.  Start today by aligning your heart with His.  Then start to ask Him if you have done the last thing He asked you to do.  If you haven’t, start taking the steps of obedience to walk it out.