Places, everyone!

Do you know your place or position? I hope you know your position at your job (it won’t be your job for long if you don’t). Maybe you have a place at the family dinner table. I bet there’s a place at the grocery store you like to park. Do you have a favourite position to sleep in?

Through much of our lives, we know our place and, most of the time, we’re prepared—if not willing—to take that position. So why is it so difficult for us to take our place in the kingdom of God? Sure, we’ve got a place once we accept Jesus as our Lord, but there is much more to it than that.

Way back in Judges, a woman—yes, a woman!—was judge over Israel. Through Deborah’s wisdom in hearing from God, Israel was able to defeat Sisera and his Canaanite army. Through her joy in victory, she sang a song.

When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

Judges 5:2 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse could read something like this:

When leaders take their place and lead,
when the people willingly submit—
praise the Lord!

Deborah’s song goes on to describe the battle, then she closes.

So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.

Judges 5:31 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse may read something like this:

No one can deny you, O Lord!
The Church will rise and endure
when those who love you take their proper place.

The only time things went well for Israel was when they had a leader who first submitted to God and led from a place of humility and a people who submitted themselves to their godly leader. Every other time in their history, Israel fell into slavery and war.

We may not be in a physical battle, but we are certainly in a spiritual war. Like Israel, the Church is never more victorious than when we take our proper places. Some are called to lead, but we are all called to follow.

To whom then should we be submitting?

God. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or what our place is, we must always submit to God over anything or anyone else.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NIV)

Each other. If we can’t even love each other as members of the same body, how will we ever win anyone else over with love? The greatest part of loving someone is submitting to them.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Human authority. As much as it may pain us to do so, we are all under human law and authority. So long as we are not asked to go against the Word of God, we are expected to submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

And how is all of this supposed to help us to be victorious?

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nearly every argument the world has against the Church can be silenced if only we would live as we’ve been called to. If we take our places as children of God, submitting to Him, each other, and those in authority over us. It is only when we take our positions that we can truly wage our spiritual war and win.

Read: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

Overshadowed

Identity is one of the greatest issues in the world today. We all want to be our own person. Find ourselves. Discover who we really are. We want to identify as someone or something and identify with someone or something. We have made it life’s number one goal—right or wrong. And in all of our searching and identifying, we have completely lost our identity.

We know that Satan is incapable of creating anything. All he can do is take the good that God has made and pervert it until it no longer resembles what it was truly meant to be. Our identity is one of these things. If the devil can make us forget (or never even know) who we really are, he’s won.

A long time ago, a young girl made the choice to give up her own personal identity in order to take one on that would have everlasting repercussions.

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Luke 1:36 (NASB)

Most people today would balk at losing their identity. What did Mary do?

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38 (NASB)

Mary submitted her own will, her own identity, in order to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

We often wonder why people no longer flock to churches and why religion as a whole is no longer popular in society. Could it be that we’ve lost our true identity? In search of ourselves, we’ve stepped out of the shadow of the Holy Spirit. We have made ourselves more important than our Creator. The world no longer sees Christ, they see us as individuals rather than the body we are called to be.

If we really want to make a difference in the world, we have to set ourselves and our own desires aside. Mary didn’t even hesitate to accept the angel Gabriel’s words. She would have known that, as an unmarried woman, she would be ostracised by her community and even mocked for her supposed infidelity. Standing in the face of great opposition, she still chose to stand in the shadow of the Almighty. Her acquiescence changed the world.

As Christians, our lives are not about our own personal identity. We don’t need to go searching for purpose or acceptance. Our identity is found wholly in Christ. He accepts us. He gives us purpose. It is not up to us to shine our own lights, but rather to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus can shine.

Read: Deuteronomy 33-34, Luke 1:24-56

Watchman

We all have to follow rules in life. As kids, we must obey the rules our parents set out for us or risk a slap on the hand or being grounded for a week. As students, we must obey our teachers or risk failure or detention. As adults, we must obey our employers or risk being fired. For the most part, because we are not willing to risk the punishment, we’re okay with being obedient. We want to be obedient because it means that our lives will be better for it.

So why don’t we respond to God with the same attitude toward obedience?

“Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, pass it on to the people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs. If you warn them and they keep on sinning and refuse to repent, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved your life because you did what you were told to do.”

Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NLT)

When God called Ezekiel to minister to the Israelite exiles in Babylon, He demanded obedience. If the prophet relayed God’s words to the people when they were given as they were given, Ezekiel would not be held responsible for the actions of the people. But if he failed to present the word, he’d be punished right along with the Israelites.

To us, when most Christians treat obedience to God as optional, the guidelines God set out for Ezekiel may come across as rather harsh. But are they? If we claim to be followers of God, should we not also be obedient to His Word? If we are so willing to submit to those in authority over us, how much more should we be willing to submit to God?

When we profess Jesus as Lord, we become accountable not only to what we do, but also to what we don’t do. If God has called us to do or say something and we refuse, we are as guilty as Ezekiel would have been, withholding the truth from those who needed it. As God’s hands and feet, as His ambassadors on Earth, it behooves us to live our lives in obedience to His Word and His call on our lives.

Like Ezekiel, we are watchmen and should be waiting for every opportunity to practice obedience to our Father.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 1-3, Hebrews 9

Temptation

Temptation
It never lets me down
Temptation
One foot in the ground
Temptation
You satisfy my soul
Temptation
I’ve lost all control

The Tea Party

And he [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!”

Luke 17:1 (ESV)

To think that you will never get caught in a trap of temptation is quite ignorant. It’s impossible to avoid. Like the lyrics above, temptation never lets you down. If you allow the lure of temptation to temporarily satisfy your soul, you really will lose all control.

But this verse isn’t just about being tempted. It’s also about being the one who tempts. It’s about holding those around us accountable and it’s about allowing ourselves to be held accountable.

It’s not an easy role to be the one who rebukes those who have fallen to temptation. And it’s not an easy role to be the one being rebuked. But when we work together as the Church was intended to work, there is forgiveness found in the rebuke.

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying “I repent,” you must forgive him.

Luke 17:3-4 (ESV)

If we submit to God and submit to each other, the sweet embrace of temptation may not become any less attractive, but at the very least, easier to resist.

Therefore submit to God.Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NKJV)

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 17:1-19

First

I’m not that old, but I’ve been around the church my entire life and I’ve noticed an alarming trend – especially in the last few years. Everyone wants to be first. This isn’t a new issue, but the means people use to get to be first are the issue.

I’ve seen those who claim to have a call to ministry push and shove through the ranks of the church so that they can be on top while others, with quiet humility, serve and are then promoted (or sometimes even looked over by the ones who stepped on them on their way to the top). The world would ask why it would matter how they got there as long as they got there. Do what you have to do to get where you need to go. Jesus would say otherwise.

If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 9:35b (ESV)

A Bible school teacher said that we must first learn to submit before we can ever learn to properly use authority. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus is telling us?

Learn to serve so that you can learn to lead.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 30-31, Mark 9:30-50