Monthly Archives: August 2016

Plant Your Flag

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

July 20, 1969, I was at my maternal grandparents home in the little town of Alden, New York.  I don’t know why my parents made the 300 mile trip to the suburbs of Buffalo on that particular weekend, but I do remember what happened while we were there.  That was the day the United States fulfilled President Kennedy’s stated goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of that decade.  Now, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed the lunar model, named the Eagle, on the surface of the moon.  They were getting ready to take their first steps onto the moon.

Apollo 11 Flag Raising We huddled around a 25 inch television – at the time, the largest TV I had ever seen – and waited for Neil and Buzz to make history.  I can remember the grainy black and while picture of the United States flag being planted into the surface of the moon.  It was amazing achievement.

Back in March of 1945, the marines on Iwo Jima planted the US flag at the top of Mt. Surabachi, indicating their victory of capturing that strategic high point of the island.  The moment is also remembered as a special flag raising event.

Every summer or winter Olympic games, each country enters the opening ceremony carrying their nation’s flag.  The flag identifies their national allegiance.

Banners or flags, have special meaning for us.  They having meaning for individuals, teams and nations; they commemorate achievement, victory or identity.  For followers of Christ, we too have a flag or banner associated with us.  It is defined for us in Exodus 17:15, as Moses builds and altar and calls it, “The LORD is My Banner.”  But what happened that would drive him to make this declaration?

The Amalekites were attacking the young nation Israel.  In fact, calling this rag-tag group of people who less than 3 months earlier had only known slavery a “natWW2_Iwo_Jima_flag_raisingion” is a bit of a stretch.  They really weren’t so much a nation as just a newly freed group of people.  They knew almost nothing about protecting or providing for themselves. Certainly, they were not able to muster a well organized army against this enemy.  But God had a plan for them.

As the text indicates in Exodus 17, Moses was leading Israel away from Egypt and they fell under attack.  Joshua gathered together an army and lead them into battle, while Aaron, Hurr and Moses when up to the top of the hill.  Suddenly, an interesting pattern developed.  As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel was winning the battle.  But when Moses tired and lowered his hands, Amaleck prevailed.  At some point, Aaron and Hurr intervened and sat Moses down on a large stone.  They stood beside him and held up his hands for the duration of the day long battle.  Israel finally won this encounter and immediately afterward, Moses built an altar naming it, The LORD Is My Banner.

I notice a few things from this text which seem to indicate the importance of banners or flags and how they apply to us.  First, Israel had to submit to God and this was signified by Moses lifting his hands toward heaven.  Nothing else changed the outcome of the battle, but his visible submission to the LORD made all the difference.  Moses’ hands lifted high indicated he, along with the rest of Israel, was submitted to God for their survival.  Victory or success requires submission.  To gain any degree of success in this Christian life, we must submit to God’s plans.

Next, he needed help.  Aaron and Hurr had to come alongside him and help him maintain that posture of submission.  As great a man as Moses was, he still needed help.  Without Aaron and Hurr holding up his arms, Israel was on the losing side of this skirmish. Victory or success requires help.  We too, need people to surround us and help us achieve victory and we need to be helping others on their journey.  That is the directive from Hebrews 10:23-25 that we are to encourage or as some versions say, “exhort” one another, meeting together on a regular basis.  You can’t do this Christian walk alone, you need each other – just like Moses needed Aaron and Hurr.

Finally, after the battle, the LORD tells Moses to “Write this down….”  They were to remember this event.  Victory or success needs remembered.  When we can see something tangible from our past where God performed a mighty act, it can serve as an encouragement when we face future obstacles.

Flags, banners mean something and carry considerable weight for us.  Giving us identity, helping us signal victory or an accomplishment and allowing us to remember a special event.  But the question we must ask ourselves is, beyond the flag of our country, what banner is flying over your head?  Is the LORD really your banner?  Are you in submission to Him?  Are you walking in fellowship with other believers who can help you and whom you are helping?

The LORD is our banner.  Serve and submit to Him.  Like those ill-prepared and ill-equipped recently freed slaves from Egypt, God will grant you success in ways you can’t even imagine – if you submit to Him.  If He is your banner and you are serving Him, victory or success, on His terms, is only a hand-raising away.  You might some help and you may need to help others, but that is how victory is won with the LORD being our banner.

Blessings my friends!

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1 John – Part 2

In the opening verses of 1 John 1, the Apostle John makes the claim that we can have fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  When we understand this relationship, we can know our “joy may be full.”

In the next few verses of John 1, he says in the latter part of verse 5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  This contrast of light and dark is a theme he uses to describe our walk as a disciple or follower of Jesus.

“If we say” and “he who says” are used a variety of times as a way of making us realize we must be the people we say we are.  Walking in darkness or sin, is not consistent in the life of one who is in Christ.

And yet, he does remind us that we have this sin issue. Verse 8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  We can never become so arrogant as to make a claim that we are above sin.

I glean from this verse the need for humility in our life.  While there is great victory over sin, there is also a need for humility.  If I am not intentionally working on my obedience and walk with the LORD, sin can creep up on me.  Humility helps me remember how susceptible I am to sin and how important it is for me to remain in His light.

1 John – Part 1

Biblical scholars may disagree on when the Apostle John wrote his three letters, but there is general consensus that John lived to almost the turn of the first century, passing away somewhere between 95 and 98 AD.  He lived longer than any of his fellow disciples.  His words from his latter years contain not only the quality of being a first-hand account of his time with Jesus, but his wisdom from a long life devoted to following our LORD carry considerable weight.

In his first letter (some would say an “Epistle”) John gives his readers a simple description of one of his goals in writing.  That our “joy may be full (1 John 1:4).”  But to understand his point, I think it is helpful to look at his opening three verses.

In verse 1, John reminds his readers that he was a first-hand, eye witness of Jesus.  He says he saw, heard and touched Jesus, whom he calls the “word of life.”  John is delicately reminding us, we may read about Him (Jesus) from various sources, but John was actually there with Jesus.  John heard Him first-hand, shared life with Him and was counted as a close friend.  John’s credibility to speak into our lives about the eternal nature of Jesus is rock solid.

Then in verse 2, he repeats his eye-witness claim and states how this “eternal life” was made real to all of us.  Followed in verse 3 with his claim, all of us may have “fellowship” or a relationship with the eternal God.

Have you ever really contemplated how awesome that concept is?  The Creator of the universe, the eternal God, has desired to have a relationship with us!  John knows, because he is the authority on knowing Jesus!

Finally we get to verse 4 where John tells why he writing to us.  He states he is writing that our “joy may be full.” Joy comes from knowing God, which happens when we know His Son, Jesus.

When one fully understands this concept as being more than just words on a page from an old book, your joy is full or one can say, overflowing.

We pursue things, finances and even sports teams, but often miss out on real joy because we don’t pursue God.  Or we look for Him in the wrong way.  We find Him and have fellowship with Him through Jesus.  Jesus said in the gospel of John 14, verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Do you want joy?  The real question is, do you know Jesus?  It is only through Him that we can know and experience true joy.

Blessings my friend!

-jm