Battle Cry

sunday dec. 31

We are in the midst of war. This war was waged about 6,000 years ago when Adam and Eve committed the very first sin. The fruit they ate was the gateway for sin to enter the world. God and sin do not peacefully coexist, because “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  This war, like any war, is made up of battles and tomorrow, the beginning of 2018, marks a new battle. Are you ready?

Every battle needs a battle cry— a word or phrase cried out by the soldiers going into combat for the purpose of uniting your regiment and intimidating the enemy. One of my favorite battles in the Bible happens in the book of Judges. The Israelites have lost their leader, Joshua, leaving them in a vulnerable place. Over and over in the book of judges the Israelites repeat the cycle of falling into sin, becoming oppressed by another group of people, calling out to God for help, being delivered by a judge (not the kind that carries a gavel, think more of like a temporary Superman), and finally enjoying a time of peace. Our story begins as the Israelites have been given into the hands of the Midianites, who are notorious for invading the Israelite’s land, destroying their crops, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. The Israelites are now so impoverished and helpless that their only option is to cry out for the God of their ancestors. Hearing their cries, God appoints a man named Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites, telling Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).

After a bit of hesitation, Gideon gathers an army of 32,000 men. As he prepares to bring them into battle, God nudges Gideon, telling him that he has too many men. If Israel were to win, they would think it was because of their own power and not because of God’s almighty power. Gideon tells his army that if anyone is scared they can turn back now. 22,000 soldiers left, while only 10,000 remained. With only a third of Gideon’s army remaining, God still says there are too many men, so Gideon takes his men down to the water. Every man who drank from cupped hands, lapping like a dog was allowed to fight, but every man who got down on their knees to drink were sent back home. Gideon’s army now consists of 300 men (who are probably at this time pooping their pants in fear). These men were not given traditional weapons; instead, they had trumpets and jars with torches inside.

In case you’re lost, here are the numbers: 135,000 well-equipped Midianite soldiers stacked up against 300 Israelite soldiers holding trumpets, jars, and torches. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the Midianites. Regardless, Gideon and his teeny-tiny army surround the Midianite camp just as the Midianites were changing guard. Suddenly, all 300 Israelites blow their trumpets, smash their jars, and yell their battle cry, “For the LORD and for Gideon!” Mass chaos ensues. The Midianites are now the ones pooping their pants, crying for their mommies, and turning on each other with their swords. That’s right, the Midianites defeat themselves while the Israelites stand back and watch.

The first step to being battle-ready is having a battle cry—a shout for solidarity and to frighten the enemy (bonus points if you make them poop their pants). Throughout the week, we will be covering words to adopt as our own battle cries in 2018. These words will strengthen us, unite us, give us courage, and intimidate the enemy. The enemy has waged war; our only option is to fight back, mighty warrior.

The whole story of Gideon defeating the Midianites is found in Judges chapters 6 and 7. Seriously, read it all. It’s full of so much juicy goodness.

 

~ Mackenzie McClain

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A New Name

Tuesday –

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Yesterday we talked about labels.  Let’s take a look at some labels of folks we see in the Bible.

Gideon labeled himself the weakest member of the weakest clan of Israel.  Yet God’s angel addressed him as “mighty warrior”.  Now, he didn’t immediately become that mighty warrior, but he did eventually grow into his new name. (Judges 6)

We see other times in Scripture when people are given new names: Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, and Paul, for example.  And each time, the new name carries a new purpose.

Let’s look at Peter.

 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17-18)

I think it’s interesting to note that AFTER Jesus gives Peter his new name and new purpose, Peter STILL fails Jesus (repeatedly).  It takes him time to grow into this new name.

We all have this idea that once we accept Christ, or once we really commit ourselves, or once we decide to live to please God for real — that all of the sudden our trajectory will be consistently up.

Unfortunately, just like Gideon and Peter, we are human.  We fail.  We fall down.  We screw up.

But, just like Gideon and Peter, if we get back up and keep trying, we will keep moving upward.  Sometimes, we need someone to remind us of our new label, our new purpose.  So, I’ll remind you:

You have greatness inside you.  It’s time to act like it!

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  Do you ever feel like your best just isn’t good enough?

Don’t Just Skip It

Psalm 106-108

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Friday, January 13

It’s amazing, when you love a book or a movie how much you can pour over it to soak it all in. In nerd culture, of which I am most decidedly a part, people discuss and debate and argue over things we find in the stuff we like. There are always questions as a matter of taste (changing something from book to movie form and how books have a 99.999% chance of being better). In the universes we love, there are strange theories. (Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars is a Sith Lord, or so some people say). There are even theories for Children’s Films (I personally believe that the Troll’s cursed Prince Hans into his betrayal of Anna in Disney’s Frozen.) While you may think these are dumb or take them super serious, they all hold something in common. The people who make up fan theories have poured over the source material so they don’t miss anything.
It’s hard to do this when we are reading through the Bible in a year, but the same thing happens in Scripture. When you know a general idea of the whole story, little details pop up that are fascinating. Notice that the children of the cursed Ham happen to be Egypt, a nation of oppressors, and Canaan, the ones God commanded the Israelites to kill. (Gen. 11) Today’s reading does the same thing. These verses are Psalm 108:7-9. I know I have tended to read them like this: “I will divide up [bad person/place], I will apportion [bad place]… Judah [I know that good place] is my scepter, [bad place?] is my wash basin.” You get the idea. But that is a sad way to read it. Don’t miss what God is trying to tell us.
—Shechem was a terrible man who did a terrible thing to a woman in Israel. (Gen. 34) God gave victory to the sons of Jacob over Shechem. God is saying I will divide up and give to my holy ones the land/wealth of the evil.
— The people of Succoth did not help Gideon, the valiant warrior of God. God gave victory to Gideon in multiple ways, one being humiliating the princes of Succoth and killing the men of their towns. (Judges 8) God will grant victory to his people over their enemies.
— By referencing Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah, God is saying that Both the Northern and the South Kingdoms are his. If David wrote this psalm, then it is a condemnation on the Northern tribes for breaking away from the rulers in Judah.
— Moab tried to stop Israel from dwelling in the Land God had promised to them and God struck them down. Edom also refused to allow Israelites to travel through their land.
— The Philistines (descendants of Egypt, according to Gen. 10) were what seems to be the arch-rivals of Israel’s claim on their ancient Land.
Just getting a small amount of information opens up so much about the text of the Bible. The truth is that it is good to read fast and cover a lot of material, but it is also good to read slowly and deeply and soak it in. Don’t let one overshadow the other, because if you read a lot it will help you read deeply. So, the next time you come to a list of names, or a bunch of cities, or weird visions, DON’T SKIP IT. Who knows what God expects you to find?
-Jake Ballard
(Photo credit: http://www.psalmsquotes.com/psalm-107-14-quote.htm)

Our Doubts & Fears in the Light of an Awesome God (Judges 6-8)

Sunday, October 2 – Start of Week 11

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Shelby Upton

In Judges 6-8 we see the Israelites in a place where they had turned from God and had been handed over to the Midianites. Gideon, being the judge and spiritual leader, is working to bring Israel back into God’s favor. Throughout these chapters we see a theme of doubt and fear. Not too different from the feelings and struggles we all face today. But the amazing thing we see from Gideon is the way he lays it all down to God. And God shows up! Over and over again proving his awesome power and doing it in the face of even more amazing odds. Whether it was defeating the Midianites with a fraction of the Israelite army or the miracles performed with Gideon’s fleece. In the face of our doubts and fears we serve an awesome, loving God who comes through for us time and time again when we lay it all at His feet.

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