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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Beautiful in God’s Eyes – Proverbs 11

pig-with-nose-ring

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”  Can’t you just picture that dirty old barnyard animal running around with an expensive gold ring in its nose?  How ridiculous!  What’s the writer of this Proverb trying to communicate?

You can be a gorgeous woman who catches a man’s eye with your beauty, but if you don’t have the proper judgment and right behavior to go along with it, that beauty is as wasted on you as a gold ring would be wasted on a pig’s nose.  Now, we can flip that if you like.  You can be a strong, handsome, hunky guy, but if you don’t have good character, you’re nothing but a handsome fool and that’s not much good to anyone.

Proverbs 11 has 31 different Proverbs, and I could have chosen any one of them to write about today, but this one jumped out at me.  First, because who doesn’t like trying to picture a 1000 lb hog with a gold ring in its nose (and for good measure, why not add lipstick and mascara?).  Good luck getting that image out of your head.  But even more so, I think it’s important for you to think about something that’s important.  Now, I know some of you who read this are old like me, but for those of you who are younger I hope you are listening.  If you’re 18, or 21, or 25 you are probably as physically attractive right now as you are ever going to be in your life.  You’ve gotten past the awkward teenage years, and you’ve not yet hit the middle age spread when things start to bulge and sag and wrinkle and gray and… oh stop, I’m depressing myself now.

We live in a society that worships physical beauty.  Now, that’s nothing new.  Physical beauty  is culturally determined and can change from generation to generation.  What’s attractive to one culture may be different in another culture.  Just go to an art museum sometime and compare what was considered beauty at one time with what you see today on TV, in movies, in magazines and on the internet.  Beauty is subjective.  Hugh Hefner made large breasts the symbol of desirable female sexuality back in the 50’s and 60’s and women started going and getting breast augmentation surgery.  Then in the 90’s rappers of a certain ethnicity made large female bottoms the new standard for desirability  (Remember, “I like big butts and I cannot lie” ?).  Suddenly, women were going out and having their bottoms increased.

Men, if you want to be desirable to women “you’ve gotta have a six pack.”  That used to be the standard of masculinity.  I’m happy that now having a “dad bod” is becoming more highly valued.  This Proverb holds all of this up to ridicule. (Remember the pig with the nose ring?)

charm and beauty

Here’s the bottom line: what you look like is not nearly as important as your character.  How you live your life matters far more than what you look like.  Now sure, we all want to make sure that we’re physically healthy and well groomed up to a point.  And there’s certainly nothing wrong with honoring other people by making sure that you are well groomed and decently clothed.  I’m certainly not a fan of people wearing their pajamas to shop at Wal-mart or wearing your grungiest jeans to go to church.  No, don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have a lot of money and grungy jeans are all you have and can afford then I’d rather you wear them to Church instead of not go to Church at all.  But, at the same time, if you’ve got nice clothes in your closet that you could wear to church, but you decide it’s not worth it, or you want to make some kind of statement by wearing tattered clothes, that’s between you and God.  I think it’s a sign of respect to others to wear decent clothing when you are around other people and to appear modest and presentable.

With all that being said, you can spend way too much time fixated on your appearance, but if you don’t invest time in wise living and godly character, you’re really no better than a pig with a nose ring… you’re not fooling anyone for very long.

~ Jeff Fletcher

What path will you choose? – Jer. 17:5-10

trust in God

Breaking News::

Humans have been found to have an uncontrollable and incurable disease. As of yet, there have been no tests by humans that have been created to test for the disease. Worse yet, this disease can’t be seen; it’s almost undetectable. The only thing that can test for it is God. What is this disease? The conditions of our heart.

 

Though physical heart disease is an important and often fatal problem, we have an even more deadly disease in our spiritual hearts. If we look at Jeremiah 17:5-10, we see a portrayal of opposites that centers around the heart, and more specifically, on who the heart trusts in.

The first person is someone who trusts in mankind. They trust in themselves or in others. In doing this, this person has turned their heart from God. They are like a dead bush, a tumbleweed, in the middle of a desert.

The other person is a beautiful picture of someone who trusts and has confidence in God. They are like a tree planted beside water that stands firm even in hot weather because they are deeply enrooted by the life-giving stream.

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Like our memory verse for this week states, in our lives, we have a choice. We choose who we will trust in. That choice affects everything in our life. It affects our thoughts, actions, and feelings. In our lives, we tend to rely on our feelings and thoughts, the things that make up what the Bible calls the heart, to determine our choices. This shouldn’t be!

The prophet Jeremiah says that the heart is more deceitful than anything else. It’s incurable and unknowable on our own power. Only God can examine the mind and test the heart to know what is in it.

Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in this place. God can transform our hearts! In Romans 8:29, it says that God has predestined us so that we would be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Through God’s Spirit, we are being made into the perfect image of Jesus! On our own power, we cannot change the heart. It will guide us down wrong paths that seem correct according to worldly wisdom. But, through God’s help, our hearts can be revived and transformed to become a man or woman after God’s own heart.

 

God’s Spirit works in us in many ways, one of which is through the wisdom that it gives. We learn what true wisdom is from God’s word (Prov. 1:2). James 1:5-8 says, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” If we come to God and ask for wisdom through prayer, he will give it to us through his word and wise counsel.

This week, we will be talking more about the importance of gaining wisdom through God’s word for choosing the right paths of God. Remember: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Broken Down

Jeremiah 3-4

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Monday, February 27

In Chapters 3-4  Jeremiah wanted a spiritual turnaround for sinful, wasteful lives.  He pictured this as a plowing of ground, formerly hard and unproductive because of weeds, in order to make it useful for sowing.

 

Chapters 3-4 are a description of God sending enemies to break up and punish the sinful people who are not seeing their sin.

God sent armies that were powerful like lions and took away blessings that they no longer recognized from God.

This is actually mercy from God so that these people will not die in their sin but recognize how far they have turned from God.

 

Do you recognize when God is trying to bring you back?

Are their things that you see as hardships that maybe can be useful to your spiritual life?

– Andy Cisneros

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/jeremiah-3-and-4/)