Posts Tagged ‘auburn football’

Judges 12:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)
Ephraim Fights with Jephthah

As you know, I am a big Clemson Tiger football fan. This past Saturday, Clemson passed one of what will have proven to be one of the toughest games of its season by season’s end. They defeated the Auburn University Tigers by the score of 14-6. It was an old-fashioned slobber-knocker of a defensive struggle. It was a throwback to an era gone by in college football. Nowadays, with changes in defensive rules and in offensive philosophies, offenses reign. Nowadays, a defense that averages giving up 17 points a game or so is considered a great defense. Back before wide-open offenses, a team that scored 17 points a game was considered a pretty good offense. So, this game was a throwback to times gone by. Clemson and Auburn have two of the best defenses in the country this year. Everyone knew that it was not going to be your typical 35-31 type game that you see nowadays. Everyone knew it was going to be a struggle. No one expected that there would be only twenty points scored by the teams combined and no one expected Clemson’s defense not to allow Auburn into the end zone at all. If you like defense and I do, this game was treat. Clemson did just enough more on offense than Auburn did to post two touchdowns (one on its last possession of the first half and one on its first possession of the second half). Clemson’s defense was spectacular as Auburn did not cross midfield except once after its first drive of game (and that one time was because Clemson fumbled the ball on its own 10 yard line). Auburn’s defense seemed to have Clemson’s number as well, except for giving up those two long drives for touchdowns.

And if you are a college football fan, you know that after winning the national championship last year, Clemson lost a lot of its star offensive players to graduation and to the NFL. Clemson had to, this year, replace almost 80% of its offensive yardage production from last year. That’s a lot of talent gone. So, this year, the offense is young with a lot of new skill players everywhere. So, after scoring only 14 points in the game against Auburn, there are critics in the press now and even among fringes of Clemson fans that are saying that the Tigers are in trouble offensively. After watching the team play what seemed very conservatively after getting an 8 point lead, many are criticizing the offensive coordinators for calling such a lame game in the second half of the contest. Last year, this team averaged nearly 40 points a game and over 500 yards of total offense per game so the critics are out. Clemson has lost its offensive mojo. They are going to get creamed by the offensive juggernaut that is Louisville this coming weekend (with its all everything defending Heisman trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson). They are saying that the defense might have won the game against Auburn but Lamar is going to light our defense up and our offense will be putting along with 14 points again.

All I can say is wow to these critics. Yes, Clemson was amazing on defense this past Saturday. Probably one of the best defensive performances I ever seen. Auburn could do nothing, I mean nothing, after their first drive. They made Auburn’s new and highly touted quarterback seem like a pee-wee football quarterback who did not know what to do. But, yet, at the same time, Auburn’s defense had as much to do with Clemson only scoring 14 points in the game. Auburn’s defense was almost as good as Clemson’s. Running lanes were small and passing windows were smaller. They have a great defense just not as good as Clemson’s. All teams are going to struggle to score against Auburn this year, plain and simple. But listen to the critics out there, Clemson is in trouble. They blame the offensive coaches for calling a conservative game. They blame the new kids on offense for not being ready for the big stage. They are saying that it was the talent on the field the last few years that made Clemson great not the coaches. Wow. Just wow. Clemson over the past 7 years now have gone through now what is the third offensive transition from one group of talented players to the next group up and they’re still winning. This group of new kids showed toughness and grit in scratching out two touchdowns against a highly rated defense. Let’s just wait and see before we say the sky is falling. The game was won in a mighty defensive struggle. Not flashy but effective. Let us wait until this week before we criticize this young team and its veteran coaches. If the Clemson offense struggles against a lesser defense this week and loses a game to the highly powered offense of Louisville then OK we got problems.

That idea of always being the critic, that armchair quarterbacking, that happens among football fans is similar sometimes how we complain in the church about how the preacher does things, about how we didn’t get asked to participate and how we could have done it better. Let’s read through the silliness of the Ephraimites in this passage:

12 Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!”

2 Jephthah replied, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon. 3 So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the Lord gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?”

4 The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them.

5 Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” 6 they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.

7 Jephthah judged Israel for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead.

Here, in this passage, we see that the people of Israel had just won a great battle, but instead of joy, there was pettiness and quarreling. The tribe of Ephraim was angry and jealous that they had not been invited to join the fighting (although Jephthah said he had invited them). They wanted to kill Jephthah and his whole family as a result. This is not the first time the men of Ephraim complained about being left out or given what they perceived as something lesser than. In Judges 8, they complained that they were not given the best job in the attack on Midian. They complained there that they were relegated to “mop up” duty of capturing the escaping Midianites. Some people are quick to criticize it seems, especially when they have risked nothing or risked less than others.

Are you jealous because the pastor did not hand pick you for a project or a position at church? Do you criticize everything that goes on at church, even in the victories? Do you want a spot out front in an event or be on stage instead of operating behind the scenes? Do you get mad because you are not given a star role in a ministry? Do you criticize the church staff but yet you did nothing? Do you think you could do it better but never do anything? Do you criticize how the church is falling apart but never give a dime to the church? Do you complain that the church is not doing enough in the community but do not tithe? Do you spend a great deal of time justifying not tithing so that you don’t have to but yet throw the word tithe around as if you do? Do you criticize the fact that the church is doing nothing for disaster relief but do not (1) give to the church or (2) have the willingness to lead a disaster relief ministry?

Just as critics of the Clemson offense need to check how well they really did against the second best defense in the country, so too should we as Christ followers need to check ourselves before we start in-fighting within the church? We need to check our pride. We need to check our hearts of service. We need to check our love for our Lord and Savior. He calls us to be a unified body. He calls us to work together for the good of seeking and saving the lost and edifying the saints already in the church. He calls us to love another as an example of what Christ looks like. That is the distinctive for us according to the Lord himself – how we love another.

There are those that think that no matter what we do in leadership at churches that they could have done it better. They often don’t know the facts and are often those who stood on the sidelines when action was required. It’s easy to criticize. It’s harder to actually be in the game. Let us build up and not tear down. Let us set our egos aside and do what is best for the church. Let us focus on the things that we need to focus on. Let us focus on being unified so that people are drawn to how we love one another. Let us focus on seeking and saving the lost. Let us celebrate the victories of when we have played our role in supporting the Holy Spirit drawing people unto Christ. Let us major on the majors! Let us celebrate together and love each other as we call on the Holy Spirit to drench our church and our people in His power. Let us be united in calling on a Holy Spirit revival in our church and in our community! Let us be united in our efforts to support the spread of the gospel to the point that our churches are full of people seeking God!

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 10:11-36 (Part 2)

The Israelites Leave Sinai

At this time of year, college football teams are deep into their preparations for the season. Two weeks from now, thank you, Jesus!, college football season begins. As a college football fan of a college team that played for the national championship last year and a team who is expected to compete at the highest level again this year, I cannot wait for September 3rd for the opening kickoff of the 2016 Clemson Tiger football season when they travel to face-off against Auburn, the other tigers. However, as a football team at the beginning of the season, they must gather together in early August to begin preparations for the season. Training camp is where coaches must assess the new recruits and the existing players and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as the replace players who graduated. Much has to be done as each year’s team is different from the last as you lose a senior class and replace it with a new freshman class. Preparation. Putting in changes to offensive and defensive standards for the season. Getting players into shape for the grind of potentially 15 games (12 regular season games, potentially a conference championship game, and potentially 2 games in the college football playoff). It is a time of preparation. It is a time of establishing a routine to football life. During the season, there is a rhythm to each week of preparation for the next opponent. Putting in game plans. Working the expected game plan of the opponent. There is a sequence to it all each week. Training camp is to establish that routine, that sequence of events that is to transpire each week. Each part of the football team (offense, defense, special teams) all have the responsibilities in getting ready for the season during training camp and then each week during the season.


My Clemson Tigers will not just show up at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL on Saturday, September 3, 2016 at 9:00pm and play. There has been training camp that get them prepared for the season as whole and that last week (August 28-September 2) will involve getting ready specifically to play Auburn. There is an order at which college football teams prepare for the season and for each weekly opponent. Teams don’t just show up and play. Even the logistical side of things that allow a team to go on a road trip game such as when Clemson travels to play Auburn in two weeks. Equipment must be organized. Hotel arrangements for the team and coaching staff must be made. There are a hundred things that have to happen when a major college football team goes on a road trip game that we, as fans, do not see. But, if any of those things fall through or do not get done, it can wreak havoc on the whole process and get a team all out of sorts and can even effect how the team plays on Saturday night. Those sequences of tasks have to be done in order and with precision so that when the ball kicks off at 9pm that night, we the fans can enjoy seeing our Tigers play and the players themselves can just go do what they do. The sequence of events in practice all week, the logistics of taking a large group of people from Clemson to Auburn, all make way for the fun of playing and watching college football on a college football Saturday night.


It is that idea of preparation, of proper order, and how the behind the scenes planning by God makes the movement of a million people seem like precision clockwork. There had to be preparation, planning, and flawless execution. Let’s think about that as we read this passage for the second time today, Numbers 10:11-36, and lets pay attention to the sequencing of the tribes (particularly those who were to carry the tabernacle and those who were to carry the holy things of tabernacle):


11 On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. 12 Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. 13 They set out, this first time, at the Lord’s command through Moses.


14 The divisions of the camp of Judah went first, under their standard. Nahshon son of Amminadab was in command. 15 Nethanel son of Zuar was over the division of the tribe of Issachar, 16 and Eliab son of Helon was over the division of the tribe of Zebulun. 17 Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites, who carried it, set out.


18 The divisions of the camp of Reuben went next, under their standard. Elizur son of Shedeur was in command. 19 Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the division of the tribe of Simeon, 20 and Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the division of the tribe of Gad. 21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived.


22 The divisions of the camp of Ephraim went next, under their standard. Elishama son of Ammihud was in command. 23 Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the division of the tribe of Manasseh, 24 and Abidan son of Gideoni was over the division of the tribe of Benjamin.


25 Finally, as the rear guard for all the units, the divisions of the camp of Dan set out under their standard. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was in command. 26 Pagiel son of Okran was over the division of the tribe of Asher, 27 and Ahira son of Enan was over the division of the tribe of Naphtali. 28 This was the order of march for the Israelite divisions as they set out.


29 Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place about which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”


30 He answered, “No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.”


31 But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.”


33 So they set out from the mountain of the Lord and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.


35 Whenever the ark set out, Moses said,


“Rise up, Lord!

    May your enemies be scattered;

    may your foes flee before you.”


36 Whenever it came to rest, he said,


“Return, Lord,

    to the countless thousands of Israel.”



I think that the amazing thing here to me is how God instructed Moses to sequence the tribes as they marched from one place to another. There is something to be said to us as we read through this passage. Notice that tribe divisions that are responsible for the break down and set up of the tabernacle always went before the tribe divisions that were responsible for the packing, carrying, and unpacking of the holy objects of the tabernacle. Notice, too, that there was a tribe that marched in between the tabernacle setter-upper tribe and the tabernacle objects carrying tribe. That’s an important logistical detail. The sequence had to be that way. When the tribes arrived at a new location, it would take a while to get everybody into camp so the sequence of events was important. It was important for the tabernacle to be set up before the guys with the furniture showed up. The house had to be built before the movers with the contents show up. There was enough distance between the tabernacle setter-uppers and the holy object carriers that the tabernacle could be put back together just in time for the object bearers to show up in camp. Precision planning on God’s part, huh?


God has a plan and sequence for our lives too. Have you ever thought that God has you right where he wants you at the moment? He has a plan for the path of our lives and we must trust Him with. Sometimes, we want to jump ahead of God. Sometimes we want to be like a football team that takes off for a road game without letting the logistics team leave the day before with all the equipment, without letting that advance team get all that set up, get the hotel rooms squared away and meeting rooms set up, getting the guest locker room set up and so on. When we jump ahead of God’s plan and we can cause ourselves pain. What if there is a reason that God has you right where you for a reason. One of my coined phrases is, “God has us right here, right now, with these people, in this place to do what God wants to do through us as His people in this place, at this moment, with these people.” God has us where He wants us to teach us what we need to be taught in this particular sequence of our lives. As my senior pastor often says, “God is preparing us for what He has prepared for us.” So many times in life, we complain about where we are at in life and want what’s next before we are ready for it. It’s sometimes that we are an elementary school football player wanting to be on the high school team right now. However, if you gave the elementary school kid that opportunity before they are ready for it, they will get crushed at practice and will never see the field in games. They would probably give up and quit. There is a plan to develop the elementary school football player as he grows so that he will be ready to play high school ball when it is time. It is the same for us. Let us enjoy the moment that we are in and learn what we need to learn. The closed doors that you keep knocking are maybe closed and unresponsive at this point because God still has work to do in you and through you right here, right now, where you are. God always let us know, through the  Holy Spirit’s pricking, prodding and cajoling of our soul, when it is time to move. The Holy Spirit will show us when the pillar of fire and smoke is lifting and moving us ahead into the next thing. We are in sequence right now where we are supposed to be. God does not want us to show up in the new campsite before the tabernacle is built. He wants us to arrive with the holy objects at just the right time and in the right sequence of events.


God does not want us to fail. He does not want to throw us into the deep waters without first having taught us to swim in the deep waters. He wants you to succeed so learn what you need to learn right now in the ministry that you are in. There is a sequence and a plan. Enjoy the ministry that you are in. God is using what you do right now. It is not wasted time. You may be reaching people for the Lord. You may be discipling people into deeper walks with the Lord right now without even realizing it. You may be impacting someone for their future ministry in the Lord right now. What if your quest for excellence in everything you do, your passion to be excellent for the Lord, is impacting someone you lead right now. Maybe, you know and have this feeling that God has bigger plans for you but don’t forget that God has a sequence of events and plans for your life and that this moment is a crucial and important part of the sequence of events and plans. Without this time frame where you are serving where you are serving, you may not be ready for what God truly has in store for you. Each step in our walk with the Lord is preparation for the next. Each step we take in ministry is preparation for the next. There is a sequence. We must trust it, enjoy it, and not short circuit it. God will let us know when its time for the next thing. We don’t just show up for football games. There is a whole sequence of events done in proper order that gets a team ready for kickoff. We must trust that the sequence of events that we are going through is all part of the necessary plan that God has for our lives. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Everything, every step is used to develop us into the servants that He wants us to be.


Amen and Amen.