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!

Do NOT be a good neighbor!

Exodus 23:31-33  31 “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. 32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”

bad-neighbor

Well now, that doesn’t seem very neighborly, does it? Yet this was God’s instruction to His people. He was about to give them some serious real estate. When they got there, they were not to move in as friendly neighbors. It was intended to be a takeover. There would be no oaths, no handshakes, no loaning the neighbor their lawnmowers. It would be a purging.

Interesting.

If you’ve ever lived in a neighborhood you can probably relate. Sometimes your neighbors, as nice as they may be, have very different values. And if you aren’t careful, they can have more of an influence on you than you are on them. Now we aren’t called to kick our neighbors out of the neighborhood, but the Israelites were. Why is that? Because God knew those neighbors would cause them to sin.

The same thing rings true for us today. Yet I’m not talking about the people in your neighborhood. I’m talking about the neighbors within us. You see, we’ve asked Jesus to come and take residence in us. We in a sense, invite him into the neighborhood of our lives. So now we are a Christian neighborhood. Our values are holiness, righteousness, kindness, love, and the like. But we do something foolish in this Christian neighborhood. We violate Exodus 23:33 – we let places of sin live in our land. We hang on to unhealthy life choices.

God knew that His people would be easily convinced to give their hearts away. He knew that they would, by default, follow the customs and patterns of this world. It was for this reason that He instructed us to kick out the old residents in our new neighborhood. He desires a holy land. He desires a pure land. He desires the best for you and your neighborhood. He knows that if alcohol is your source of peace, He can’t be. He knows that if you worship image, you won’t ever pursue being made into His image. If you listen to what is common, you won’t be made holy. 

So I encourage you today, do NOT be a good neighbor. Don’t let bitterness live next door. Give an eviction notice to envy. Serve lust with a homeowner’s association violation. Do not let these things reside in your land. Set God as first in your heart. Set God as ONLY in your heart. Jesus doesn’t need neighbors. When it comes to the land of your life, He gets it all.

 

Different

I just wrapped up another season of coaching indoor soccer. It’s been a busy season coaching two teams, with one of my daughters on each team. I have been coaching for several years now and I absolutely love it. The transformation that takes place from the first practice to the last game truly is astounding. Kids sure are fast learners! Speaking of the first practice, it was a little chaotic.

indoor-soccerIn fact, the first week of practice was that way! You see, in order to develop skills, I thought I would split the team in half and run a scrimmage. Great idea, but they couldn’t remember who was on their team. That’s when I realized I needed to buy some pennies (practice jerseys) so they could figure out who to work with. Once I got those jerseys on them, things changed. They could more easily remember who was on their practice team. Red with red and blue with blue. They weren’t the same anymore; they were different.

In Exodus 8:21-23, God used the plague of flies like practice jerseys. He said this to Pharaoh:  “If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them. But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.”

I will make a distinction. That’s the heart of God for His people: that there would be a distinction between them and the world. That they would be different. He wants us to be different!

The question is, in our own lives, is there a distinction? Can anyone tell the difference between the people of God and the world? The whole point of these plagues was so that God’s people could “come out” of the land of Egypt. And we, too, need to come out. We need to step out and be different. To be distinct. To be set apart. So in examining your own life, are you hanging out in Egypt with the flies or are you in Goshen… where life is different?

 

Who’s influencing who?

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. 

Nebuchadnezzar had a bad dream.  That dream warned that God would take away his kingdom for a season and he would live with the animals.  Talk about a humbling experience for a mighty king.  But since he refused to acknowledge God, it happened.  So he lived like a wild animal for a season until he came to grips with the fact that the Most High was truly the only God.  Then God restored his kingdom.  Verse 37 of chapter 4 is what the king learned from his experience.

Now what is remarkable about this whole chapter is the fact the we see Nebuchadnezzar being drawn into God.  Do you realize how unlikely this is?  This is the king who brought Israelites into his kingdom and tried to train God out of them. (See this post)  He named Daniel after his own false God for goodness sakes!  But it seems as though Daniel wasn’t the one who was influenced.  Nebuchadnezzar was the one who had the change of heart.

We live in a world that behaves much like this king.  It desires to train God out of us and our children.  It wants us to hand over our truth so it can give  us a lie.  So what are you going to do?  Who is going to influence who?  Like Daniel, we can take a stand for what we believe in.  We have an opportunity to influence our world!  But it’s more than just an opportunity, it’s a command.  Jesus said to go into all the world and to tell others about Him.  We can’t just idly sit back and hope that no one tries to force their garbage on us.  We’ve got to go into all the world… so let’s go!

Should we lock up the kids?

Daniel 1:3-5  3 The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility — 4 young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace — and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. 5 The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court. 

The king of Babylon took God’s people captive.  He didn’t put them to death or torture them.  No, he wanted to use them for his service.  So what did he do?  He worked to turn Israelites into Babylonians.  How would he accomplish this?  Through the young people.  He would invest in them and train them and put them into his service.

Something tells me that today, the enemy is still trying to turn God’s people into Babylonians.  And he is attempting to get the hearts of the children.  He is teaching them the language, showing them his version of right and wrong, and promising to meet their needs.  He is making magic and sorcery fun and presenting vampires as harmless (and even sexy!)  He is cramming his meal of tolerance and acceptance of sin down their throats like  Nebuchadnezzar’s royal food and wine.

Do you see what is happening?  Not only are they eating it, but so are their parents!  They are drinking their way to being numb to sin.  And the only way to keep up the buzz is to drink more of it.  Where are the Daniels?  For Daniel determined he would not defile himself with the king’s food or wine.  Even though he now lived in Babylon, he didn’t lose his identity as a citizen of heaven! 

So what are we supposed to do about this?  Should we lock up the kids?  Should we hide them away so they never see Babylon?  I say, no.  We need to teach them what Babylon looks like.  We need to prepare them for the traps that the enemy will set for them.  We need to teach them how to be heaven’s citizens in a sinful world.  It starts by doing it ourselves.  Have you inadvertently signed up for the king’s training program and sat down at his table?  If so, it’s time to take a stance like Daniel did.  It is a stance of holiness and identity in Christ.  Be set apart, friends… and teach the younger generation to do the same.

If

2 Kings 21:7-9  7 Manasseh set up the carved image of Asherah, which he made, in the temple that the LORD had spoken about to David and his son Solomon, “I will establish My name forever in this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. 8 I will never again cause the feet of the Israelites to wander from the land I gave to their ancestors if only they will be careful to do all I have commanded them — the whole law that My servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen; Manasseh caused them to stray so that they did greater evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites. 

There’s one little 2-letter word that jumped out at me today.  It’s the word on which promises hinge.  It is the word which will determine blessing or destruction, wrath or providence, legacy or death.  That little word is “IF” and it packs a punch.  It’s a word we use regularly today.  You will get to go to the movies IF you do your chores.  You will get a paycheck IF you work the hours.  You may get a speeding ticket IF you go over the speed limit.  “If” speaks to condition or conditions – and God had them.  Still does.

These kingly fellows in the Old Testament were mostly failures when it came to the if clause.  They served themselves before the Lord.  They ignored His “if” and paid the consequences.  Today, God gave us a big “if” too.  First of all, He said that IF you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved.  It’s a condition.  We have a part to play.  We must believe in the Son.  And I think we should do more than just believe; we should throw our whole lives into Him.  

He is where life is at!  If you want protection, live under His covering.  If you want peace, live by His Spirit.  We cry out to God in our times of need, saying: “help, help!”   I wonder if he feels like saying, “what about the IF?!”   We so often expect Him to hold up His part of the bargain without holding up ours.   And He is asking us to be set-apart.  He asks us to lay down our sin and walk away.  He asks us to serve Him and Him alone as God.  IF we could just do that, imagine the blessing, the protection, and the peace.  Imagine the vision, the purpose, and the hope we would have.  IF we would just look to Him in all things, we might actually find the life we are looking for.

Finally

2 Kings 18:1-6  1 In the third year of Israel’s King Hoshea son of Elah, Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king of Judah. 2 He was 25 years old when he became king and reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done. 4 He removed the high places, shattered the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned incense to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. 6 He remained faithful to Yahweh and did not turn from following Him but kept the commands the LORD had commanded Moses.

It’s about time, don’t you think?  I mean, I have been reading this book of second kings for a while now and I am really getting tired of hearing about kings who did evil.  King after king didn’t follow the Lord like their ancestor David.  So they ruled their ways into destruction.  But then comes Hezekiah; he was different.  He didn’t follow after the wickedness of his father or his grandfather, or even his great-grandfather.  He didn’t lead by popular vote or succumb to the way of culture.  

Instead, he took a stand for God.  I find this truly remarkable!  This was a young man who had no one modeling Godly behavior for him.  He didn’t have a heritage from the Lord through his parents.  And he could have gone the path of least resistance, which would have been leading the same way daddy did.  But he didn’t – he dared to be different.  He dared to live a life of righteousness.  He dared to destroy idolatry and bow down before no other king.  He was a rebel for God!

I know it can be hard to take a stand for the Lord in your life.  Sometimes our surroundings feel like they are choking us out.  Many of you don’t have families that gave you a heritage in the Lord, so you are forging your own way.  And I want you to know that it can be done.  A young man by the name of Hezekiah dared to live for the Lord.  He made a decision that he would be different regardless of what was going on around him.  He destroyed the things that were not pleasing to God and surrendered his life to Him.  If Hezekiah could do it, you can do it to!

Does God have roommates?

I Samuel 7:3 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Intention and action aren’t always the same thing.  Samuel surely knew the history of the Israelite people and wanted to be certain they were serious this time.  We find them in chapter 7 crying out to the Lord for help.  They were sorrowful and repentant and ready to return to God.  But God also knew the hearts of His people.  In Isaiah 29:13, the Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”  We should know that God is not after religion; even though He made the rules, He isn’t as concerned about them as He is the hearts of man.  He wants our hearts, not just our words.

Because if we only give Him our words and not our hearts, our words are empty.  They mean nothing.  So Samuel tells the people here in verse 3, if you really mean it… if you are REALLY returning to the Lord then prove it with your actions.  Get rid of your foreign gods and idols!  God wants to be the only one; He doesn’t want to share an apartment with idols and false gods.  He doesn’t room with anyone, well, except the trinity (which is really Himself anyways).  Have you ever shared an apartment with someone?  Did you find that you had to make concessions?  Did you find yourself having to adjust to the lifestyle of the person or people you were living with?  God doesn’t do that.

Yet we ask Him to move into the apartment of our hearts with a bunch of roommates.  He says, “it’s crowded in here.”  You tell Him that He can have the master bedroom.  You tell Him that He can have most of the space in the fridge and even in the cupboards.  He says, “it’s crowded in here.”  You tell Him that you will move the idol roommates out to the garage or into the hall closet.  His response? “It’s crowded in here.”  You see, God doesn’t want to share you.  He wants your whole heart.  So we must heed the words spoken by Samuel: if you are returning to the Lord with your whole heart, get rid of all the idols and the stuff that you serve other than Him.  Don’t make God number one in your life; make Him the only one in your life.

What’s your problem, God?

Joshua 7:10-13 10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.

Here in Joshua 7, we find ourselves shortly after the landslide victory that involved the wall of Jericho crashing down.  God told the Israelites to make sure not to take stuff that wasn’t theirs to take.  But someone did – not cool.  This messed them up real bad.  You see, the next battle wasn’t quite as awesome as the previous one.  It seemed like a sure win, no problem at all.   But they got their rear ends handed to them by a pretty pathetic army.  Joshua’s response is so human in the sense that it is completely fickle.   Truthfully, it reminds me of myself.  He can’t understand why God would abandon them like that.  “What’s your problem God?”

So God says to Joshua, “Dude, what are you doing? Why are you crying about this?”  Then God drops it on him that someone blew it.  Apparently there was a moron in the camp who thought he could steal stuff and hide it from everyone, including God.  But God is a little more perceptive than that and the guy gets caught.  In fact, God outs him in front of the entire nation.  After that, they all have to get right with God all over again.  Do they not remember the recent circumcision ceremony?

All along, the problem was not with God.  The problem was with the people.  We so often want God to do everything for us without the cost. We want the same forbidden things that Achin longed for and still expect God to cover it.  But God is after our hearts.  He is after obedience.  Why?  Because He knows that His instructions are what will bring us life.  If we would just obey, we would discover that.  We can’t fall into that mentality that I can have it all my way and expect God to fulfill my expectation for Him.   He asks us to set aside some things and walk in His ways.  If we aren’t willing to set those things aside, maybe we shouldn’t get frustrated with Him for not fighting our battles.

Wrong side of the magnet

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 “Therefore come out from them and be separate”, says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters”, says the Lord Almighty.

Kids can play with magnets for long periods of time.  They are fascinating, those magnets.  You can stick two together; you can draw pieces of metal toward them.  You can also turn one of them around the wrong way and the magnets will repel each other.  They will refuse to stick together.  Kids will spend hours just trying to figure that out.  Why will the magnets so easily stick together, but when turned over I can’t get them to touch?  They are both magnets, so it should work on either side.  I’m sure it has something to do with polarity and magnetic fields, but I’m not smarter than a 5th grader, so I can’t be certain.

If we can think in terms of magnetism for a moment, I will state that the ways of this world are like a magnet.  They attract.  In this passage of scripture, Paul is talking about unbelievers and their ways.  He says to come out from them and be separate.  It can be a hard thing, to come out of the world.  It has a pretty strong magnetic pull.  As humans, we are like the other magnet.  We most easily link up with the way of the world magnet.  It is attractive, alluring, and pulling.

But we are called to do something different.  We are, in essence, to be the wrong side of the magnet.  We’ve got to realize that God has called us to turn our lives over and start repelling. It’s harder though, to keep a magnet on it’s wrong side.  It naturally wants to flip over and attach itself to the stronger magnetic force.  But if you resist and stay the course, you can keep a magnet from flipping over, and thus maintaining that resistance.  We need to do the same with our lives.

“Come out from them and be separate”, says the Lord.  He has called us out to be different.  He has a higher way, a better route, a clearer path.  He is longing for those who will touch no unclean thing.  He is searching for those who will set their hearts on Him alone.  He is looking, and I want Him to find me.  I want to be one who doesn’t touch what is unclean in God’s sight.  It will make me into a radical, I am sure.  But I’m okay with that; I want to be a son.  I want to be the wrong side of the magnet.