Friday Before Good Friday: Ten Days that Changed the World

As I pointed out over the last few days, we have been working our way through the entire Old Testament, taking devotional thoughts through every single book. I’m going to take a short break on that journey to celebrate the Easter season, and to acknowledge both the gritty reality of Christ’s last week on earth as well as the undeniable impact of his resurrection.

As we have gone through the Old Testament, it has been surprising to see God’s judgment juxtaposed with His precious love, and to find images of the Lord of Hosts as a lover, as an anxious groom, and as an affectionate Father singing gently over his child. These images lead us to the realization that while the Old Testament is full of the harsh reality of sin, death and a fallen world, the story of Grace is not finished. There is more to the story than a harsh, vengeful God who delights in sacrifice and judgment.

The New Testament and the work of the Messiah introduces us to new possibility: a world governed by a continuous cycle of sin and sacrifice gives way to a world of grace. Sin still corrupts, but the required sacrifice provides a plot twist that takes God’s revelation in an entirely different direction. Today, on Friday, we will look into the Gospels and see the rest of the story.

Here, nine Days before Easter, we will appreciate the Easter season for everything it holds. This Friday post introduces us to a slightly extended version of the passion week of Christ, with an attempt to recount daily activities and developments. One can easily make the argument that no other week affected all of human history as much as this one. The significance of these ten days is demonstrated by how much attention the Gospel writers paid to it: though Christ spent three years ministering, the four authors commit from at least one-fourth (Matthew and Luke) to almost one-half (John) of their books to this single week.

To set the stage for the rapid turn of events, John reminds us that the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees had been heightened by the resurrection of Lazarus. John 11:54 says, “Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Friday

Jesus was well aware that the Pharisees were plotting against Him, and any normal man might have avoided Jerusalem this week altogether. But Jesus was not a normal man. As people in Jerusalem spent Friday getting ceremoniously cleansed for the Sabbath, they wondered if He would show up at the Festival. Not only did He show up, but He had a very busy week making sure that He fulfilled every aspect of His mission.
Sabbath began on Friday at dusk and went to Saturday Sunset. Starting with today, this quiet Friday when Jesus and his disciples were on retreat together, we will walk each day through Passion week alongside Jesus and His disciples, and we will observe the various players who influence events. Here is a brief chronology:

Friday the week before: Crowds follow; Pharisees have ordered Jesus’ arrest
Saturday (Sabbath) in Bethany, an anointing at Dinner
Sunday (“Palm Sunday”) The triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Monday back and forth to Bethany, a cursed tree, cleansing the temple
Tuesday (a busy day) in the Temple, answering critics and teaching
Wednesday (a quiet day at Bethany) a brief look at chronology
Thursday (Passover Meal) Last Supper, night-time betrayal and arrest
Friday (Illegally Tried) Convicted, Scourged, Crucified
Saturday (The Darkest Day ever) In the Tomb
Sunday (Easter) The Resurrection!

As you read through the daily account of Passion Week (Really ten days, from Friday before through Easter weekend), remember that Easter is about gritty reality. It is about greed and politics, about hatred and hope. It heralds the transformation of scattered and scared disciples into astonishing men; of a rejected Rabbi into the coming King; and, ultimately, perhaps the most surprising turn of events, it begins the transition of the mighty Roman Empire into a mere asterisk in the annals of History. Last of all, it represents the transformation of an un-lovable, insecure sinner –me– into someone redeemed and adopted by the King Himself. I hope your Friday helps you begin a transformation that turns the worst day in history into the best. Day. Ever.

The Beginning of an Empire

Roman soldiers formed their lines with military might;
Everywhere they went, they conquered everything in sight.
States and nations large and small capitulated one and all,
And every Roman man would stand in answer to the emperor's call.
Into every battlefield centurions were hurled,
Conquering everything that mattered, all around the world.
The Roman soldiers spread their fears, making widows, causing tears
And built an empire Caesar said would last a thousand years... 
But then that world was changed--not by a battle or a sword--
But by a loving, humble king armed only with God's word.
Caesars rose and fell. This King, though gentle, mild, and meek
Is one whom wise men sought, and one whom wise men still should seek.
He told his followers that they should turn the other cheek;
He hastened Rome's demise by what he did in Passion week.
One week changed the Roman world, and altered all its ways:
Refresh your view of history and take the next few days
To see the actions of this King--and Jesus was his name--
As Passion Week unfolds, the world will never be the same.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Hear the Word, Do the Word: Ezekiel’s Audiences Just Didn’t Get It!!

“He who has Ears to Hear” was a phrase Jesus used many times. Usually it meant that there are many people who hear sermons with their brains but never take them into their hearts. What you hear in the spiritual world often fails to be applied in the secular one. Amazing how much it still applies today.

“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NIV).

hear

Ezekiel’s sermons were well-crafted, like compellingly beautiful love songs sung beautifully and played with virtuosity. It must have been obvious to those who came to hear him that they were listening to the Word of God, skillfully presented to confront them and teach them with the truth. If he preached today, Ezekiel would be in a mega-church and would be heard by thousands.

Ezekiel was well-known, a prophet who had a long career bringing God’s Word to the people. His vivid description of Israel’s sin, betrayal, and impending judgment apparently made for good theatre, and he was the talk of the town for a while. People spoke about his sermons around the neighborhood, in the thoroughfares, and in the marketplace. He preached to packed houses, drawing big crowds who came to hear the messages. But his audience only gave his sermons lip service, and people failed to apply the word to their lives.

Can you imagine something like that? People who spoke of love but were really only concerned with greed and material things? Hearing a message from God and yet not changing where it counts– in your heart– and then masquerading as a believer in front of others? Going to church on Sunday but living differently the other days of the week? It must have been a problem men struggled with for a long time, because even in the New Testament, James said, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Well, the good news is, Ezekiel and James lived a long time ago! I’m sure glad that kind of stuff never happens anymore…

Doers Not Hearers

We go to church, and we can’t wait
To hear a sermon that is great;
We worship, since that’s why we came
And walk back out the door, the same…
You can go to church and pray,
But it should change you every day;
So let me make this crystal clear:
If you have ears to hear, then hear!
If God’s word’s heard, and then applied,
You cannot stay the same inside.
If there’s a message that you’ve heard,
Then be a doer of the word.
Following Christ is more than talk:
So hear the word, and walk the walk.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

April Fool’s Day: What Could It Possibly Have to Do With Jesus?

Since it’s April Fool’s Day, I wanted to deviate from our journey through every book of the Bible and chase a theological rabbit for a minute. This is NOT an April Fool’s joke, but it has to do with my take (purely conjecture) on a possibility about WHY we call April first a fool’s day. In so doing, I’ll share some quick opinions about Jesus’ birthday and the Real April Fool: and offer the perspective that perhaps there is a reason we can’t nail down the exact date of Jesus’ birthday…The Scripture says it like this:

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, NIV)

The historical birthday of Jesus has been debated and even disputed in modern times. Because of a lack of clarity over the timing of Herod’s reign and Quirinius’ term as governor of Syria, several theories have arisen around the exact day Jesus was born. Most scholars agree that Jesus was born in 3-4 BC, and was probably not born on Christmas day itself. Our modern date for Christmas probably started around 400 AD, when the Church moved Christmas there from January 6 to compete with (and perhaps redirect) the pagan celebration of the birth of the sun. At any rate, there is no purely Biblical reason to use December 25 as the true historical day of Jesus’ birth.

Based on Jewish Holy days, and the fact that shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks, many scholars feel that the most likely birth date might be in the Fall of the year. Interpretations based on lambing season, climate. flock locations all have good points to help justify a Fall annunciation. Other scholars choose to place it in the Spring (and for some of the same reasons!), but it’s just not conclusive. As a result, men have disputed and debated the true birth day of Christ ever since… I would submit that anywhere there is division, dispute, and debate, we find opportunities for the great deceiver to bend and twist the truth.

If I were the devil, I would love anything that creates doubt or confusion about Jesus, even his birthday. I would certainly be opportunistic enough to take anything not explicitly stated in Scripture and try to use it for division or doubt. (As a parenthetical note, there is NO real debate as to whether Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical figure, although there are fringe elements today who continue to try to change that history, just as there are those now claiming the earth is flat, or that the Holocaust never happened…) Even though the exact date may be obscure, there is NO DOUBT that Jesus of Nazareth had a birthday! We just don’t really know if it was in April or not.

My lovely wife has a very interesting idea about April first. She has often noted that it seems like Satan loves to mess with days that are special to Christians. Several significant church holidays have been tied to pagan activities or worldly festivals and traditions, and are therefore subject to criticism, or worse, to perversion. Easter, for instance, was loosely related to Ishtar festivals, which celebrated fertility and spring. All manner of pagan activities took place around THAT celebration! Halloween has been tainted by ties to Satan and evil (so much so that many Christians refuse to celebrate it and have renamed it “Fall Festival”. But there’s very little “hallowed” about Halloween these days.) So where did Christmas come from? It was never really tied historically to the exact birthday of Jesus, and the very year it occurred is not really clear from Scriptural and historical accounts. (In fact, it probably happened around 4 BC to account for Tiberius and likely census dates).

We celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25 because it came from a traditional church feast day that started in the 4th century AD. (which was also based on a pagan feast day) Scripture never gives the exact date, but the fact that sheep were out grazing in Luke’s account could indicate early spring. My wife Nancy speculated that since Satan likes to 1) mess with anything godly; 2) cast aspersions about who Jesus was; and 3) make Christians look foolish, then perhaps the most logical date for the birth of Christ would be April 1.

April birthday

If the great Deceiver wanted to call attention away from Jesus, why not make the day of his birth an annual Fool’s day? Make it day of pranks and foolishness rather than a day of reverence and celebration? It’s not based on scholarly research, but to me it makes sense because it is just the kind of thing that the great deceiver would do: he would try to make Christ look foolish and to create a case for doubt around His birthday.

April fools

However, if Satan did that, the joke is on him. As Paul said, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. (I Corinthians 12:7, KJV). If Satan is somehow behind turning the day of Jesus’ birth into a Fool’s day, then his little joke is just like the Cross: he thinks he won a battle when he actually lost the war!

So, What does April Fool’s Day Have to Do With Jesus?

Scholars just cannot agree, from all the evidence they can see,
The very day of Jesus’ birth. They know for sure he came to earth,
And has a place in history, but there is ambiguity
Because the Bible does not say which year, or month, or week, or day.
I know the Devil roams about to cast destruction, death, and doubt–
Using falsehood to disguise, and shrouding truth with outright lies!
I’m sure he’d love to use his tools to turn us into April Fools,
Prompting men to cast some scorn about the day that Christ was born.
But please o seeker, just remember, whether in April or December,
Jesus Christ was really here. On that, we can be crystal clear.
We may not have the day exact, but Jesus came, and that’s a fact.
So if you’d like to have debate, I wouldn’t wait, or hesitate–
Let’s talk about eternal fate, and whether Jesus shot us straight,
And if the things he said were true. I’d research that, if I were you!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war; the Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. One of the great differences between the God of the Bible and other gods is compassion. Only this God became a man, shared our sorrows, and experienced our grief and pain. He knows where you are because He has been there. He understands loneliness, heartache, being misunderstood, and even the pain of death.

While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, Lamentations promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can be the only thing that is worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, discover the comfort in God’s inextinguishable light.”

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

New Day, New Hope

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Seek God. If You do, Jeremiah says He has Some Promises for YOU

When my Grandchildren come over we love to play “hide and seek”. There is something delightful about having someone looking for you, isn’t there? There’s a sense of anticipation during the search, and there are screams of laughter when someone gets found. Seeking someone may be something we think of as a childish game, but there is really way more to it than that.

If you haven’t noticed yet, we are reading through every book in the Bible. Here on Day 25 we find ourselves in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV).

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and he preached in a time of upheaval and conflict. He didn’t sugar-coat the word of God, and he didn’t just tell people what they wanted to hear. He was judged harshly by his audience. He was thrown into a muddy pit and ridiculed by all who passed by. He lived in difficult times, and predicted some terrible things ahead for Israel. In 1:14, he said, “calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land.” In 4:7, he predicted, “The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate.”

If you read through Jeremiah you might understand why his congregations wanted to throw him in a pit! His preaching was full of doom, gloom and disaster. But in the midst of his dire warnings about the coming judgment there is this comforting promise in 29:11, which speaks of hope and restoration. I have seen this verse quoted many times, and in fact it is displayed on the wall above the door to our garage, so we see it every time we go out.

seek

It is one of my favorites because it reveals the nurturing side of the Lord’s character, the one that focuses on love and redemption. God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. Just don’t forget to add verses 12 and 13. Everybody claims verse 11; not everybody goes on to see the rest of the equation. God’s promise is extended to those who call on Him and pray to Him. We are promised we will find God if we seek him with our WHOLE heart. This thought is echoed in Hebrews 11:6, which says that God is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Not feeling as close to God as you’d like? Seek Him. Call upon His name. Pray earnestly to the Lord. Don’t be half-hearted in your search. And what, pray tell, does he say will happen if you seek Him with your whole heart? You will find Him: BOOM!

Jeremiah 29:11 And More

Ever feel that’s God’s not real, or He is far away?
Does it seem your words don’t matter, sometimes, when you pray?
God says, “I have plans for you, and I will help you cope;
If you seek me, you will find that I’m the God of hope!
If you want to find me, here’s the way to make a start:
Come to me in faith, and look for me with all your heart!
You’ll discover all my love, for I have plans for you:
Plans to give you hope today, and for your future, too.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Expectations Aren’t Always True: If God is Not Who You Expected, Maybe You Should Change Your Expectations

Expectations play a large role in our contentment and happiness. Have you ever met someone who did not turn out to be who you expected, and you were disappointed? Have you met someone who surprised you by exceeding your expectations? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it?

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. His own siblings thought he might be crazy. The disciples saw him as a way up and out. They knew he was powerful but they weren’t really sure where that power was headed. The Pharisees saw him as an outsider. The Roman leaders didn’t know what to make of him.

What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).

expectations

I’ve wondered many times why my Jewish friends don’t see Jesus the same way I do. He was Jewish, and he came as Messiah, yet he was not who they expected. In a way, I totally understand, because we are all immersed in our own reality, and sometimes it’s impossible to see around our own perspective. At the time, under Roman occupation, the Jewish Leaders looked for revolutionary deliverance, and were hoping for political independence and freedom. Yet Jesus was not who they expected: he never got political, and didn’t seem to give a fig about overthrowing Rome.(Kind of ironic when you consider that Christianity played such a big role in ending the domination of the Roman empire…)

I’m sure the Jewish zealots who followed him were disappointed that he came as a suffering servant rather than as an earthly king. Apparently Jesus, who came to set up a spiritual kingdom through his suffering, did not meet their Messianic expectations, and they rejected the notion that he could be the One.

I once heard Bill Dial preach a really good sermon speculating that perhaps Judas betrayed Christ only to force his hand and start the revolution he thought was ultimately coming… He expected Jesus to rise up in power, not to be tried like a criminal. When that happened, Judas was devastated by the way things turned out because he expected a King instead of the cross. He missed Jesus’ true purpose as expressed here in Isaiah, and ended up hanging himself in grief and remorse.

Question: do we ever miss who God really is because we are hoping for something different? Is God’s response ever different than you expected? “Lord, bless me financially and I’ll believe you are real.” “Lord, heal me and I’ll know it’s you.” Are we ever sitting in a cave like Elijah, expecting to see God in the whirlwind? Can we be so wrapped up in our own presuppositions about who we’d LIKE Jesus to be that we miss who he IS? You know what they say about ASSUME… (When we do it, “it makes an ass out of u and me”).

So don’t put God in a box—expect to find Him in unexpected ways and places… And while you’re at it, set aside your assumptions about church. Enter church as a suffering servant rather than as a sanctified saint. Stop being judgmental about the judgmental. Look at the man who was pierced for our transgressions. For my money, he was the Messiah who came to deliver not just a kingdom in Israel from occupation, but all of us from enemy territory. But don’t take my word for it; get to know Jesus. Then decide for yourself.

Rumination on Expectation

In a world of independent rights, here’s a disturbing thought:
God is always WHO HE IS, whether you like it or not.
What if He turns out to be much more than you expected?
What if, on the Judgment Day, you stand there unprotected?
What if, in the Kingdom, we are standing there like fools,
Just wishing we had got to know the king of Kings who rules?
Perhaps you don’t believe in God; But what if He’s really there?
What’s his personality? And should you even care?
If you have never talked to God before, consider this:
It might be good to get to know him just the way He is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Sex the way it Was Meant to Be: Fifty Shades of God

The Bible can be pretty Puritanical when it comes to sex. Does God hate sex? Or did He just have different intentions about its purpose?

“I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10, NIV)

In the Bible there are many warnings about indiscriminate sex, and prohibitions against all kinds of sexual activity. In our world today, there are those who call such values outdated, Puritanical, repressive, and even hateful. So why is there a book smack dab in the middle of the Bible that rejoices in sex, that celebrates intimacy between a man and a woman, and that sets Biblical prudishness back 3,000 years? Have you read the Song of Solomon lately? It’s a racy dialog between two lovers, whose intimacy is anticipated, sung about by friends, and broadcast across the pages of the Bible for all the world to read wherever Bibles are sold.

sex

From the way these lovers rejoice in blessed carnality, the way they adore each other’s bodies and feast among each other’s lilies, one might actually get the idea that the Creator created SEX! And that it can be guilt free, pleasurable, and downright HOT. There seems to be only one catch: it was designed to function best in a relationship between a husband and wife.

sex

People have been having other kinds of sex (and seemingly getting away with it) ever since man left the garden to live in a fallen world. If you look around today’s world, we are encouraged to have more kinds of sex than ever before. A partial list includes premarital, extramarital, same gender, swinging, wild, experimental, prostituted, BDSM, who-knows-what online, and all kinds of casual, temporary sexual activity.

All of these, we are told, provide pleasure and possible fulfillment. I’m sure that to some degree they do. And yet, somehow, there is a lot of hit and miss in those promises. Apart from temporary, transient pleasure, those activities can also result in low self-esteem, “the walk of shame”, humiliation, VD, or the abortion clinic, where the pleasure seems far away and the residue of lust seems lonely and incomplete.

Folks who have engaged in those pursuits often end up feeling used, broken-hearted, lonely, bitter, and empty. Guys try to make a clean getaway while girls wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” What if we asked the world to say, “Me too” if they’ve experienced that? We see couples on TV hooking up on almost every show we watch, and we hear about the promised thrills a lot—but not so much about the failed relationships, broken hearts, and the emptiness of the morning after…

Great sex, according to the Bible, is hottest when two lovers belong to each other. It has intimacy based on the fact that it represents the union between us and our creator; it has spiritual depth because it represents not only carnality and passion but caring and compassion. The Song of Solomon says that God wants lovers to have great sex—just not cheap, selfish, abusive, or temporary sex. You’d think the creator might know some secrets about the creation. I bet if you asked Him about kissing, He’d tell; He’d probably even write a little something down about it, and it would have way more than 50 shades. Read the manual, and you’ll know a lot more about how to drive the car…

Fifty Shades of God

Doesn't God hate sex? The Bible tells us not to do it,
Doesn't God prohibit sex and all that there is to it?
I've heard, when sex is talked about, that God is just tyrannical,
And that the Bible's stance on it is somewhat Puritanical...
And yet the Song of Solomon presents two smitten lovers
Who obviously enjoy themselves while underneath the covers!
It celebrates their intimacy in waves of carnal pleasure,
And God says that their love should be expressed in fullest measure!
They feast among the lilies, and they frolic in the glades,
Enjoying Godly intimacy in more than Fifty Shades!
When sex is blessed by God, it seems that nothing is forbidden;
When love unites the lovers, God says nothing must be hidden!
There is some ancient wisdom on it: go and take a look;
Just check with your Creator. After all, He wrote the book.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Chance May Be Random, But What Chance is there that You’ll Read This? YOU Decide.

Time and Chance might seem to have no place in a world ruled by a Sovereign God. Both Bible Scholars and skeptics believe in an either-or universe in which God has pre-ordained all things, and where determinism restricts the choices men may make about existence. The tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is a difficult thing to sort out, but surely God has a plan designed to accomplish His will which would override random events.

So why did the wisest man who ever lived say this:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

I have always been in awe of God’s majesty and omniscience, but I have often wondered about his sovereignty. What does God’s sovereignty mean to us in a practical sense, and do we really have any choice in this world? On one hand, I have heard it argued that there is nothing that happens outside of God’s plan, and that there is a sort of determinism about life: since God has foreknowledge, and knows everything in advance, then we really have no options and we are basically puppets dangling at the end of God’s strings. On the other hand, there are many things in scripture that suggest man was given will and the ability to make choices for a reason; there is cause and effect, there are consequences to actions—but it’s not always the outcome we think is logical or fair.

chance

I have always believed that God’s sovereignty is somehow big enough to allow for human choices without limiting His authority, or interfering with the outcome He desires. God’s perfect will allowed for Abraham to sleep with Hagar, and still somehow used the players in their faithless disobedience to fulfill His ultimate plan. God allowed Jacob to lie and steal the blessing from Esau, yet it all worked to fulfill the covenant. He permitted a harlot to betray her own people to save the spies in Jericho and become one of David’s ancestors. In each of these cases, people made their own decisions, committed sins, or followed seemingly unpredictable paths of choice and chance.

The universe is not simply an “either-or” situation between God’s will and man’s will. The Bible views them as a “both-and” scenario, where God is utterly sovereign and man takes his chances and makes his choices. There are many twists and turns throughout Scripture that seem disconnected from God’s will (or totally random, based on earthly factors), but they did not deter His will or prevent the outcome He had ordained. And then this verse from Ecclesiastes: “time and chance happen to them all.”

I believe that God allows for time and chance in a fallen world. If that is true, then He does not program us like automatons or dictate every action. Things are not always logical, and outcomes are not all predetermined. We act freely. We take our chances. Every eventuality exists under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty, and His foreknowledge does not limit our choices or dictate our decisions.

Sometimes the underdog wins. God allows for that. Sometimes humans exercise their will in business or athletics. God allows for that. And sometimes, in a fallen world, random things occur and accidents happen. Sometimes people pay for making stupid choices, or even pay for someone else’s stupid choices, and life is affected by time and chance. Ultimately, however, God is in control and we can have faith in a risen Lord in the middle of a fallen world. Are there things in life that seem unfair or impossible? Sometimes. Do those things ever circumvent God’s will? Never.

Chance or Choice?

If everything is prearranged, and history’s die is cast,
Then every action is ordained from the first one to the last.
The Lord is sovereign (heaven knows), and has a master plan–
So what remains within the province of the mortal man?
The Lord knows every man’s demise, and every sparrow’s fall,
But Solomon said Time and Chance still happen to us all.
So, is God in control, or do we have the right to choose?
If you gamble, bet on God. There’s no way you can lose…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Heart of the Matter is that Your. Heart. Matters.

What goes into your heart matters. What comes out of it matters, too. For people who didn’t have EKG’s, cardiologists, or heart hospitals, the ancient Hebrew people were pretty wise about matters of the heart. Solomon in particular seemed to have a deep understanding of the way the heart functions, and his Book of Proverbs is full of references to it. With all of our technology, do you think we are any smarter about these matters than they were 3,000 years ago?

Take a look at a few of these Proverbs and tell me what you think:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV) “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, KJV) To the Hebrews, the heart was the center of a man’s being, the place where instinct, reason, emotion and will came together as the core of body, soul, and spirit. It was where he made decisions and created core values. Heart matters mattered to Solomon: Proverbs acknowledges it as the gateway for wisdom (2:10), and the place where understanding and God’s instruction could be stored and used (3:1, 6:21). Solomon saw the heart as central to a man’s commitment (3:5) and motivation (4:4). A teachable heart that is turned towards God’s wisdom brings both practical and spiritual rewards; a heart turned astray has other outcomes. A foolish heart will spurn good advice (5:12), act deceitfully (6:14), devise wicked schemes (6:18), be drawn into lust (6:25), and be willfully perverse (11:20) or unreasonably proud (16:5).

matters

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He also said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him.” (Mark 7:20, AMP) So, what comes out of your heart? One of the indicators is your vocabulary. (“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Luke 6:45) What are the first words out of your mouth when you are angry? Do your words heal or hurt? Do they help or hinder?

What do you think the things that come out of your mouth say about your heart? If you did a quick internal summary, how would you evaluate your heart? Is it well-tended, or is it a bit of a hot mess? Does it cuss or discuss? Is it a gateway for wisdom, or a repository for waste? Is it proud and self-centered, or is it open and teachable? If you take care of your heart, it will take care of you!

Jesus said that we are defiled not by what we do, but by what comes out of our hearts… Take an honest inventory of what has flowed into and out of your heart lately. Then remember what Solomon said. Look after your heart: everything you do flows from it.

The Heart of the Matter

You cannot see it, but it’s there, providing with every beat
The fuel to think, the means to care, the power to compete.
It shows resolve, or skips a beat, or sometimes feels a thrill–
While it contains the seat of instinct, intellect and will.
It is a place where body, soul, and spirit all reside;
It is a place where men can shine, or where they try to hide.
Solomon said it was a place where passion could be fired,
And that to keep it healthy, there was diligence required.
A foolish heart will do some things that just aren’t very nice;
It won’t subscribe to wisdom, and accept its good advice.
So guard your heart, since it is where a person’s measure is;
And watch what you put into it: It’s where your treasure is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Goliath Can Come At You From Anywhere; When He Does, There’s Only One Place to Turn

Goliath was one of a race of Giants who afflicted Israel. For years the Philistines had embarrassed Israel on the battlefield, and Goliath was certainly cut from that type of mold. Day after day he would patrol the front lines, taunting the Hebrew soldiers to come out and fight him. From out of nowhere, and without armor or military prowess, the young shepherd David killed Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and changed Israel’s history. What giants are you afflicted with? They can be anything bigger than you are, and they can even be of your own devising… David found that he was tested not by bigger giants on the battlefield, but by a level of selfishness and sin that almost destroyed him.

After failing greatly, and after being broken and utterly humbled, he prayed:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps 51:1-2). If you ever want to pray scripture, this is a pretty good verse to pick. For me, this plea from David is at the heart of the Psalms, and it is also at the heart of our world.

goliath

David triumphed over Goliath, but Goliath wasn’t the giant who ultimately brought David down. Like many of us, David’s greatest giants attacked him from within. His prayer in this verse goes to the heart of how David had to deal with the other giants in his life.

David wasn’t a great example because he was righteous or close to perfect; he was great because he understood his need to be forgiven. He couldn’t function as king without God’s grace. He couldn’t function as a man without forgiveness. God–the Righteous Judge–is also the only source of forgiveness in our world. David knew that mercy comes from unfailing love, and that love only comes from God.

God’s forgiveness manifests itself in grace, a transaction where someone gets forgiven, even when they don’t deserve it. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves…” It is grace that facilitates mercy, and it is mercy that we need. Think for a moment about how important forgiveness has been in your life, about how many times what seemed lost has been restored, and how many relationships, seemingly broken, were repaired by forgiveness.

What if there were NO grace? What if we just removed all grace from the world? What if nobody forgave anybody? How would you then feel about those who had wronged you or slighted you? Take away grace and how would you treat them? What giants would be unleashed in every human endeavor? How would you feel about yourself, if all of your transgressions remained on your conscience like an open wound? Who would you be?

The human world would literally tear itself apart without the grace and mercy that are required to interact every day. Of all the animals, man alone needs and exercises forgiveness, in both the very personal way of dealing with our own iniquity, and in the public way we need to forgive others and need to be forgiven by them. David knew all about that, and the way he threw himself humbly on God’s mercy is more of an example to us than how he handled Goliath. We all have giants to slay. We all need God to slay them.

David Found Grace

David fought Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts;
He did not fear the bluster in the giant’s prideful boasts.
He fought Goliath as he fought the lion and the bear,
With faith that God would shield him as an answer to his prayer.
Of all the battles that he fought, the hardest one to face
Was when he sinned, and had to call upon the Lord for grace.
His battles weren’t the worst of all the danger he was in:
The greatest danger David faced attacked him from within.
He begged the Lord for mercy, and the Lord forgave his sin.
But what if grace did not exist, and mercy never came?
Do you believe our broken world would ever be the same?
If grace had never happened, could you ever heal your heart?
What bitterness and jealousy would tear our world apart?
How much would ugliness prevail? What knives would evil twist
To cause malignant hate to spread– if grace did not exist?
Remember David’s anguished, heartfelt plea to God above:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, and give me your unfailing love.”
Remember this, regardless of the giants you must face;
What makes this lifetime altogether bearable is Grace.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread