Category Archives: Victorious Living

Blue Tassels

“Speak to the Israelites, and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner that when you see it you shall remember and do all my commandments,
and you shall be holy to your God.” Numbers 15: 38-40 (NRSV)

It is not unusual to see people “wearing” their beliefs. They do this by putting on designated colors to show their affiliation and support. In October, both men and women, showed their connection with breast cancer awareness by wearing the color pink. During the Vietnam War, friends and family wore yellow ribbons to show their support for the young men engaged in battle on behalf of this nation.

The newest trend is wearing rubber wristbands in a myriad of colors to support everything from prevention of animal cruelty to sexual preference. But the wearing of color as a reminder is not a new phenomenon. In Numbers 16:37-41, God instructs Moses to tell the children of Israel to place tassels on the corners of their garments with a blue tread. These blue tassels, in the form of a flower or petal, were attached to the edge of one’s garment. They were placed there as a perpetual reminder of two things.

First, the blue tassels reminded the Israelites to follow God’s commandments. God’s commands are more than a list of “do’s and don’ts”. They are His instructions on how we are to live in relationship with Him and with our fellowman. God’s commands, found in the Bible, are divine orders to help us live victoriously in a fallen world. By them we are warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Ps. 19:11).

Second, the blue tassels reminded the Israelites to live holy for God. Why was God concerned with holiness? God knew the children of Israel would be tempted to assume the habits and beliefs of the pagan, sinful society they occupied. Holiness demands separation and consecration of oneself for God’s special purposes. Each step of the believer was to be encircled by blue tassels that symbolized the restraints and freedoms of knowing Yahweh (Deut. 6:8-9).

How do you remind yourself to obey God’s commandments? Many of us don’t even think about God’s expectations for our lives until Sunday morning. What’s your cue to help you live holy? God knew that the children of Israel needed a reminder. In His omniscience, He saw that we needed a reminder, too. Where are your blue tassels?

Good to the Last Byte…
It’s not easy to live in the world and not be of the world (John 17:14-16). The world consists of the people, place, and beliefs that make up the environment we live in. We interact with the world through our social networks, our jobs and other relationships. Jesus warned His disciples, “If the world hates me they will also hate you” (John 15:18-19). The world will try to change your beliefs concerning God. They may call you bigoted, intolerant, or small-minded. When this happens, look at your “blue tassels” and continue to walk confidently with the Lord.

HAVE A BLESSED AND JOYOUS THANKSGIVING
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonian 5:18

Victorious Living: Confident in God

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NRSV)

The events of the past weekend in Paris have left us speechless as we again must determine our response to catastrophic events that occur in the world in which we live—especially events that disrupt our sense of safety and security. The threat of terrorists home and abroad is pushing the human heart to new levels of fear and anxiety. Dwindling resources (financial and natural) and strained relationships are creating atmospheres of hopelessness and hostility as people attempt to create their own solutions to living in these perilous days.

In our text, Judah was living in times similar to ours where there was a continual bombardment of “bad news”. Habakkuk, one of the Old Testament prophets, was given the burden of proclaiming God’s Word during a time of unprecedented political, military, economic, and social upheaval for Judah. Sound familiar? Judah’s religious unfaithfulness, their perversion of justice and disregard for the Mosaic covenant, would result in punishment by God—70 years captivity in Babylon. While Habakkuk didn’t fully understand what God was doing during this critical time, he chose to trust God completely. After much prayer and inquiry of the Lord, he obediently received the Word from God and the understanding that “the righteous will live by their faith” (Hab. 2:4).

Habakkuk ends his judgment prophecy with an expression of full confidence in the God of his salvation. Habakkuk expresses his trust in God by describing his indifference to the loss of external indicators of God’s blessings– prosperity and agricultural abundance. Although there would be “neither blossom, nor fruit” and there would be “olive failure, no food, no flock nor herd”, Habakkuk would rejoice in the LORD. Why would Habakkuk rejoice? Because he knew the true source of His security (Ps.18:2-3). Habakkuk affirmed his unswaying confidence in the Sovereign LORD who would make him “as surefooted as a deer and bring him safely over the mountains” (Hab. 3:19). God would insure his safety and restoration.

To live by faith as God directed Habakkuk is not bright-eyed optimism or wishful thinking. Optimism is often based on an expectancy of the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation. “Faith to live by” is placement of our trust and confidence in God—His love, His presence, His power—regardless of the outcome. Life in the 21st century is hard BUT GOD is able to be whatever we need to handle the most difficult circumstances—our healer (Luke 4:18), our provider (Matt. 6:33), or our protector (Ps. 45:1-2). God has ordained (prepared) us for such a time as this. Therefore, let us not live fearfully but let us live by faith and boldly proclaim “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength” (Hab. 3:18-19a).

Good to the Last Byte…
Whether Baby Boomer or Millennial, life lived apart from the presence and power of God will be difficult. Place your confidence in the True Source of Life and Security (today, tomorrow, and throughout eternity). God is more than able (Ep. 3:20).

Victorious Living: Handling God’s Word

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

Our text today comes from Paul’s letter to the young preacher, Timothy as he prepared for leadership in the church at Ephesus. In this letter Paul passes the mantel of ministry to Timothy and exhorts him to continue faithful in his duties, especially as it pertained to holding to sound doctrine ( 2 Tim. 1:13-14), avoidance of error (2 Tim. 2:15-18) and confidence in the Scripture (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Paul knew the importance of knowing God’s word and its critical role in the survival of the early church. Paul’s message, the direct result of God’s inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16), is relevant to believers in the 21st century. Although we may not be clergy, we are expected to “hold fast the pattern of sound words, which we have heard” (2 Tim. 1:13). Are we “holding fast”?

The Barna Research Group found that Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.

“Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on.”

Paul warned that in these “last days” leading to Christ’s Second Return, one of the things that would suffer would be knowledge of God’s Word.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

We can no longer depend exclusively on our pastors and other ministries to explain and interpret God’s Word. In many churches, the full counsel of God’s Word (both Old and New Testament) is being neglected. Ministers are questioning, from their pulpits, biblical truths including the security of believers and the sinlessness of Christ. Such behavior is not new, for Jeremiah observed: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”(Jeremiah 5:30-31)

Biblical literacy in the 21st century is critical. In reading the Bible one receives wisdom from God (1 Cor. 2:6-16). In addition, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3: 16-17, ESV). Biblical literacy encourages spiritual maturity and empowers us to live victoriously in these tumultuous times. As we witness to unbelievers and seekers, it will become the tool for sharing the Gospel—the message of life over death.

Victorious Living: New Beginnings

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJ)

Christ’s work of redemption presents mankind with the opportunity to experience a new beginning with God. No longer separated by sin, man can now be reconciled with God and enjoy peace with his fellowman (Rom. 5:1). For believers to fully experience this new beginning, we must possess a clear understanding of our new identity in Christ. This understanding is critical for living victoriously (1 John 5:4).

Identity is the condition of being a specific person or thing. Our personal identity is the result of the people, places, and things we connect or associate with. This is also true of our spiritual identity. While personal identity looks at outward influences, spiritual identity, however, looks at two things: (1) the Person of Jesus Christ and (2) the Place of the Cross.

Jesus Christ took on our physical identity (in his fleshly body) so that we can become partakers of his spiritual identity (Heb. 12:14-15). This divine incarnation resulted in the provision of the perfect sacrifice required to satisfy the penalty for sin that we might have eternal life and become children of God (Rom. 8:16).

It is in the shadow of the Cross that we leave our old nature and become crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). It is here that we die to sin and deny its death hold upon our life (Rom. 6:11). It is in His resurrection, that we received new life for our new beginning.

Once we fully grasp our identity in Christ we can begin to live victoriously, ready to receive “all the fullness of God” (John 1:16). Once estranged and hostile to God, our hope and assurance now rests in the completed work of the Cross and the new beginnings which Christ, with His life, acquired for us. Our past (life) is past (behind us). He is our New Beginning (Col. 1:18).

Good to the Last Byte…
If we have new beginnings, why don’t we live more victoriously? Christ has provided all we need to live holy (Eph. 1:3-9). It is now our responsibility to daily walk out and live out the new identity Christ has provided.

Victorious Living: Courageous Confession

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.” Psalm 51:2-3 (NKJ)

The 51st Psalm is God’s lesson on confession. It was authored by King David after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. The whole incident was not unlike the stories we read in the gossip tabloid or see in the latest “made for television” sequel. King David, however, gives us a better approach to confession.

First, King David quickly accepted responsibility for his behavior and pleaded guilty to all charges. He immediately called upon God for forgiveness. He offers no excuses but appealed to God to “blot out, wash and cleanse him” from his “transgressions, iniquity, and sin.”

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (VV. 3-4)

Next, King David recounted God’s expectation of him, as a man and as the leader of Israel. Though King David had perpetrated this crime against Uriah, he answered to a Higher Judge, the omniscient God, who see, hears, and knows all things. There are no “hidden sins” in His presence.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (VV. 4-6)

Finally, King David was concerned about his broken relationship with God. He had the unique opportunity of walking closely with the Lord most of his life beginning as a young shepherd boy in the hills of Bethlehem. He longed to be restored to that relationship.

“Create in me a pure heart, 0 God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (VV.10-12)

It is important that we learn to quickly confess our sins. Unconfessed sin results in guilt and shame, spiritual strongholds in our lives, and even worst, a broken relationship with God. Therein lies the power in confession. Power comes from the One who is “faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives transgressions?” (Micah 7:18) There is none O Lord like You.