Mighty warrior

If you have to go into a fight, who are you taking with you? Who is going to lead you and your army into battle? You’re going to pick the biggest, strongest, meanest guy you can find. The guy who inspires (or terrifies) people to follow him. He’s the guy who can flip your car. He’s the guy who simply whistles and everyone falls into line behind him. That’s the guy you’re taking into a fight with you.

Israel has a big fight ahead of them. God needs to pick the guy who will lead them. Gideon was that man.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:12 (NIV)

This guy must be something special if an angel of the Lord is calling him a mighty warrior. Gideon must be big and strong and well-able to lead an army.

“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Judges 6:15 (NIV)

So… Gideon isn’t a big, strong leader. He’s the runt of the litter.

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Judges 6:16 (NIV)

Many of us disqualify ourselves from our calling saying that we’re not enough. We’re not big enough. We’re not strong enough. We’re not smart enough. We don’t have what it takes. But that’s the point.

Not only did God pick the least consequential person from the weakest clan, he took an army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred and won the battle. God isn’t nearly as interested in brains and brawn as He is in obedience. He is not looking for greatness, but humility.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Luke 9:48 (NIV)

When God takes the least and leads them into victory, there is no doubt as to whom it belongs. If we were capable of accomplishing the will of God on our own, He would never receive the glory. But because He calls the weak and the wounded, His glory shines through. No one is disqualified from the call.

Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior on his own. It was because God was with him that he became a mighty warrior. Maybe you’re not called to lead an army into battle, but God has called you to do something great. Don’t count yourself out because of what you can or can’t do, but rather count on God because of what He can do.

Read: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Strength in numbers

Read: Exodus 9-10, Matthew 18:1-20

For some Christians, asking them to pray is akin to letting them know that you’ve booked them in for a five hour dentist appointment. When it comes time to commune with our Father and bring our needs as well as thanks to Him, these people are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they don’t like to pray in front of other people. Maybe they feel their prayers are better said in private. It could be that they don’t even like to pray at all (at which point I would begin to question their claim to salvation). No matter what their reason, these people are missing out. And, not only are they missing out on the benefit of corporate prayer, but they are robbing everyone else of their contribution.

Matthew 18:19-20

If one can put a thousand to flight and two can put ten thousand to flight, how much more could three or four or eighty-nine or three thousand accomplish? One person believing that their presence won’t be missed in prayer is sorely mistaken. Biblically speaking, numbers tend to expand exponentially. When you add one, you add nine thousand. So my question to those who withhold their agreement in prayer is this: why would you want to rob your brothers and sisters in Christ of the strength you can add to their prayers?

Everything Jesus taught was for the benefit of believers, to bring them together, to strengthen them. He didn’t give commands to flex his authority, but gave them for the benefit of all. When he told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, it was for the benefit of all. When he commanded them to go heal people and cast out demons, it was for the benefit of all. When he said that it’s a good idea for two or three to stand in agreement together, it is for the benefit of all.

In the book of Acts, the more people that joined the church, the more people were drawn in. Like a magnet pulling in another then another, soon you have a stack of magnets that is far stronger than one or two on their own. The more we, as the active body of Christ, draw close to, work with, and pray in agreement with one another, the stronger we will be.

I believe that the more we can all come in agreement not only in prayer, but as a church body—a family, the greater our results will be. I think we should all be able to agree that our strength is in our numbers.

He knows

When everything around us seems to be going wrong, sometimes it can be difficult to believe in a good God. Where is He when children are starving? Where is He in the violence? Where is He in the political turmoil?

He’s right where He’s always been. Waiting.

Many people are inclined to believe that a God that would let the world destroy itself is either one that doesn’t care about humanity or one that doesn’t exist at all. But that’s not how this faith thing works. You see, God first loved His creation so much that He let them choose whether or not they would love Him back. He still lets us make that choice.

Picture a person you barely know. Maybe someone you’ve heard something about. Now imagine finding yourself in trouble. You know that person has the ability to help you, but you don’t know them. They don’t know you. Would you expect that person to come to your rescue? When that person doesn’t come to your aid, would you be angry with them? Of course not! So why would anyone make the same demands of God?

God is more than able to help anyone in any situation. He knows your circumstances better than you do, but He is not going to step in uninvited.

The Lord is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

A person who takes refuge is a person who flees a distressing situation and runs toward a place of safety. In order for anyone to take refuge in God, we must go to Him.

God knows your struggles. He knows every difficult situation you have to face. He also knows your joys and your triumphs. He knows you. So, if you ever wonder why you can’t find God in your situation, perhaps it’s time to bring your situation to Him.

Daily Bible reading: Nahum 1-3, Revelation 13

Silence the fools

It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who make foolish accusations against you. You are not slaves; you are free. But your freedom is not an excuse to do evil. You are free to live as God’s slaves.

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NLT)

The best way to prove a fool wrong is by your actions—not with malicious intent, but by simply living contrary to their foolish accusations.

The church is one of the most accused groups out there. It’s full of hypocrites. They just preach that prosperity stuff. The preachers all holler and spit. It’s only a place where weak people go.

The best way around all of those things is to live the exact opposite. Live with integrity. Preach a balanced message. Whisper and try not to drool. Be strong. Let the way you live exceed the expectations of others.

Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world.

1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)

If you’ve ever tried to argue your point with a fool, you know that it is a fruitless waste of time.

Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.

Proverbs 10:23 (NLT)

The best response to a foolish accusation is to live a life above reproach. In living wisely, not only can we find pleasure and honor, but we silence the fools.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 34-35, 1 Peter 2

Living power

For those of us blessed with literacy, our daily lives are filled with words. Emails, books, signs, letters, newspapers. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to read and comprehend words. But, because we see so many of them, they can start to lose meaning. They’re just words.

Because words are just words, we can also have a tendency to apply that attitude toward the Word of God. They’re just words. Numbers. Letters. Stories. Like the words we are surrounded by, the Word of God can become meaningless if we fail to see it for what it really is—full of living power.

For the Word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires It exposes us for what we really are.

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

Full of living power. Let’s look at a few more words to explain these three big ones.

FULL: Replete, having within its limits all that it can contain; abounding with, having a large quantity or abundance; supplied, not vacant; large, entire, not partial; strong, not faint; abundant, plenteous, sufficient.

LIVING: Dwelling, residing, existing, subsisting; issuing continually, running, flowing; producing action, animation and vigor, quickening.

POWER: The faculty of doing or performing any thing, moving or producing a change in something, ability or strength; force, energy.

We should never allow ourselves to look at God’s Word as just words. The text contained in the Bible isn’t just anything. Those words contain the power to heal and bring life. They also have the power to cut—not to harm, but to remove all of the things that would hinder us from growing into the people that God has called us to be.

There are no limits to God’s Word. The strength and force within His Word flows continually, without end. And that flow isn’t just a trickle. It’s abundant. Large. Not faint. And He’s given that Word, full of living power, to us.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 46-48, Hebrews 4

Weak

You’ve probably had a lot of experiences that many people don’t know about. You’ve done things, been places, seen people. Much of which could probably bring you up a few rungs on the ladder of worth when it comes to what others think about you. But is all of that really worthwhile? Is it really of value to boast about all those things if they are of no eternal value?

I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it. I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than what they can actually see in my life and in my message.

2 Corinthians 12:6 (NLT)

If it doesn’t further our ministry or our message, is it really worth boasting about? We shouldn’t have to rely on the opinions of others for validation. All the validation we will ever need is found in Christ. Besides, the worse off we are, the more Christ is able to do in our lives.

Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (NLT)

The world would have us believe that weakness makes us, well, weak. But it doesn’t have to. If we are always strong, we never have reason to lean on God. We never have the need to call on the name of Jesus. But in our weakness, when we must rely on our Creator, He makes us strong. He works in and through us. This is the life and the message Paul is talking about.

We shouldn’t have to boast about what God has done because people should be able to see what God is doing. If you’re always talking about what God did in the past, is there even room for Him in the present? There is no shame in weakness because, if Christ is in us, he has already taken our shame upon himself. As for the insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is our through Christ, who loved us.

Romans 8:35, 37 (NLT)

If you must boast, boast in that. That, no matter what life or the devil may throw at you, you belong to Christ. You are his, he is yours. Go ahead, be weak. Let Christ show his strength through you.

Daily Bible reading: Song of Solomon 1-3, 2 Corinthians 12

The resistance

Have you ever had a non-believer tell you that you weren’t acting like a Christian? Somehow, the world has this idea that all Christians should be prim and proper pacifists, gracefully accepting of anything and everything the world would throw at us. And for some reason, the Church has often helped to perpetuate this falsehood. Paul closes off his first letter to the church at Corinth with some language that is anything but passive.

Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.

1 Corinthians  16:13-14 (NLT)

These verses, as is, are inspiring. We could all throw up a fist and shout a hearty amen, but let’s go deeper.

What does it mean to be on guard? Do we need armour? Weapons? Should we be behind a wall or shield?

GUARD: to watch by way of caution or defense; to secure against objection or the attacks of malevolence.

To be on guard is more than just standing around waiting. It is to be ready and prepared at all times.

What about standing? If guarding is more than standing, surely standing must mean more than just being on our feet. It would seem silly if Paul were instructing an entire church to never sit or lay down.

STAND: to be on its foundation; not to be overthrown or demolished; to be fixed or steady; to be in or maintain a posture of resistance or defense.

For a long time, much of the Church has been passive. We’ve somehow got it in our minds that resistance isn’t the “Christian” thing to do. Read your Bible. There is a whole lot of resistance going on. We are to resist the devil. We are to resist temptation. We are to resist against anything that would come against the knowledge of Christ. Why would God give us weapons if He didn’t want us to use them?

So, if we are to stand up to and resist, how do we know what to stand for?

TRUE: conformable to fact; being in accordance with the actual state of things; genuine; pure; real; not counterfeit, adulterated or false; faithful; loyal; honest; exact; straight; right.

We have a whole book full of truth in front of us. If we believe it, we are to guard it with our lives and stand up to anything that doesn’t line up with it.

And how should we go about doing all this?

COURAGEOUS: brave; bold; daring; intrepid; hardy to encounter difficulties and dangers; adventurous; enterprising.

STRONG: well fortified; able to sustain attacks; not easily subdued or taken.

Does any of this sound passive to you? Nothing here would indicate that the Church is supposed to be a bunch of pacifist pansies waiting to take anything and everything the world throws at us. I’m not saying that we literally take up weapons and go to war against the world, but we must know that we are in a spiritual battle. As soon as we forget that we’re in a fight, we’ve already lost.

We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT)

It’s time to join the resistance.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 13-14, 1 Corinthians 16

Our foolish preaching

If we break down the message of the Gospel and look at it as an outsider might, it really is a foolish message.

A young girl gets pregnant before her wedding. The baby doesn’t belong to her fiance, but he marries her anyway. When she goes into labour, the only place they could find to stay was a stable. The kid grows up with his mother and adoptive father and trains in the family business—carpentry. He causes a bit of a ruckus, but by all accounts (and they are few), he’s a normal kid. At the age of thirty, he decides to make a bit more of a stir and hand-selects a group of people to follow him. Commercial fisherman and social outcasts are among those selected. This man from nowhere special then travels around with his little group and pretty much stirs up the religious people. He says things that are contrary to what they believe and he hangs out with people no one should be hanging out with. He performs all sorts of miracles—which many would have attributed to witchcraft. By the end of three years, he’s earned himself an execution. When he’s dead, all that’s left of his three years of wandering the countryside are a few men and a handful of weeping women.

Great story. No wonder so many people won’t listen to it! But that’s not the end.

This strange man with a contrary message didn’t stay dead. He came back to life in glorious fashion and continued to share his message with his followers for another forty days before disappearing. He disappeared.

This is the great message we are supposed to share with the world.

When people want to tell a story about one man saving the world, they send a superhero. Someone with extraordinary strength, power, and character. Someone with skills and abilities that go beyond being able to swing a hammer and tell a great story. They tell a story about an invincible hero who will always be around to save the day.

Our hero died. On purpose.

It is the fact that Jesus walked into his own death that makes our hero’s story the most extraordinary. He didn’t do what people expected of him. He did more.

I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)

In order to be the hero that saved the day once and for all, Jesus had to do things differently.

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (NLT)

The world may see our message as foolish (void of understanding or sound judgement; weak in intellect; unwise; imprudent; acting without judgement or discretion in particular things; ridiculous; despicable), but there is far more wisdom in it than anything the world could ever come up with.

This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25 (NLT)

God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NLT)

We can look at this story of salvation as the world might—a sad one of a strange leader and his motley crew that somehow managed to do enough to have their story told for millennia. Or we can see it for what it really is—an incredible story of sacrifice and salvation. The story of the world’s greatest hero born in the most humble of circumstances. The story of one man who gave up his own life not for his glory, but the glory of his Father and the salvation of the world.

God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT)

Our story doesn’t end with death. It continues with life. Life everlasting.

Not so foolish, is it?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 112-115, 1 Corinthians 1

JOY!

JOY: The gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration or spirits.

I believe that there are some, or even a lot, of Christians who are under the impression that joy is not something we should feel or express on a consistent basis. Maybe someone who is struggling will be offended by our joyful mood. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable by being happy all the time. It’s weird to always be in a good mood.

This is another occasion where I have not been able to find scripture to back up a pervasive idea that has invaded so many churches and Christians. There is nothing in God’s Word that would suggest that Christians must be a somber folk, not given to smiles our bouts of laughter. Everything I’ve discovered would indicate the exact opposite.

What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What joy awaits us
inside your holy temple.

Psalm 65:4 (NLT)

We should be joyful because God has brought us near and that joy doesn’t even have to wait because we are His holy temple. Joy should be an overwhelming experience that saturates every day of our lives.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)

Joy isn’t just an experience or an emotion.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit being active in our lives. According to Proverbs 17:22, a cheerful heart is good medicine. Nehemiah 8:10 tells you not to be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Our joy should be contagious, infectious, making us stronger.

By allowing ourselves to experience a gift that God has given us, we not only strengthen ourselves, but we then have the opportunity to pass on that joy and strength to others. Google a video of a baby laughing and see how long you can keep a straight face. Joy is meant to be shared.

When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:10-11 (NLT)

Joy is simply the overflow of the love of God in our lives. Try spreading a little joy today. Smile at a few strangers. Laugh with a friend. Take note of how you are affected. See if you can improve someone else’s day.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 65-67, Romans 2

Be strong

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.”

1 Chronicles 28:20 (NLT)

We, the Church, have the great task of building the Kingdom of God. We are to go into all the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. That is a sizeable task. It can be daunting if we take the entire work upon ourselves as individuals or even individual churches.

But it is not our responsibility alone. While we should feel a great sense of responsibility to carry out the Great Commission, the pressure to complete it does not rest on any one individual, but the Church as a whole.

Jesus said that he would build his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. If he promised it, he will perform it.

Like David instructing Solomon on building the Temple, Jesus instructed us on building the Church. David’s words to his son are as applicable to us in our endeavour to build the Kingdom of God as they were to Solomon in his to build the Temple.

We must be strong and courageous, and do the work. God is with us. He won’t fail us. He won’t forsake us. He has called us to work with Him and will equip us with all we need to complete the task as we need it.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 28-29, John 11:47-57