Delight is Your ONLY Job Today. So Show Delight, All Day Long: GO!

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” (Psalms 119:92-93 NKJV) Delight is defined as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.”

In Richard Bach’s book “Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, he tells the story of an automobile mechanic who delivers a message from God. In his final sermon he asks the people if a man should be willing to suffer in order to fulfill God’s mission. People respond, “Of course, Master! It should be pleasure to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask for it!” And the people were ready to carry out God’s will for them no matter how much of a burden, and no matter how painful or difficult. Then the preacher threw the crowd an unexpected curveball. “And what would you do, the Master said unto the multitude, if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE‘. What would you do then?” And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillside across the valleys where they stood.” (Illusions, pages 10-11)

God’s command was not that his children suffer or be tortured, but that they be happy. The multitude reacted in stunned silence. They had been ready to suffer for God but had not considered being happy for Him. Doesn’t everybody want to be happy? How many people do you know who ARE? Everybody wants to be happy, but who knows HOW to be happy?

What delights you? What REALLY transports you to a state of pleasure or joy? I bet it’s a short list, and I bet for most of us, it’s different than David’s. David found delight in God’s law. It gave his life order, and it sustained him during times of affliction. It was part of his world and part of his walk. From God’s precepts he received pleasure and enjoyment, and he even says, “For by them You have given me life.”

As religious but finite beings, we sometimes focus on the QUANTITY of eternal life rather than on the QUALITY of eternal life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) God wants you to experience not just life, but abundant life. He commands you to be happy. Are you? Everyone I’ve ever known who truly loves God’s word and lives by it displays selflessness, concern, passion, wisdom, joy and peace… Not a bad set of attributes!

Think about being delighted today. Imagine that your delight was not dependent on circumstances, but on how you feel about God, and about how engaged you are with His word. Have you ever associated God’s law with pure unadulterated delight? If you fall more deeply in love with God’s words, I think you’ll also fall in love more deeply in love with life; and you will discover more about its QUALITY, even as you look forward with hope to its QUANTITY.

God’s word gives life, its burden is light,
helps you do what’s right, and it shines so bright
in the darkest night that it gives you sight
no matter your plight, and it offers delight
that the world tries to match, but just can’t quite.

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Mercy is not just something you need to get. It’s also something you need to GIVE

Can you imagine a world without mercy? Have you stopped lately to consider how important mercy can be? This Psalm says it well: “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:76-77, NIV)

Do you need a little more love and mercy in your life? David did. Consider his life and fortunes, and I bet you can relate somehow. David knew about the importance of love and mercy. He was the least and smallest brother, the sheep-tender, stuck way out in the pasture while his older siblings did the important stuff. He knew what it was like to feel lonely, vulnerable, unappreciated. He was the least popular kid in middle school.

When Samuel came to choose Israel’s future king from among Jesse’s sons, David was an afterthought, only brought in from the pasture when Samuel asked “Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:11) After he was anointed as the future king, he rose to the heights of celebrity by killing Goliath. You’d think a hero like David had it made now, right? Wrong. Saul’s murderous jealousy turned David into a fugitive, hiding in caves and running through the badlands. He had to consort with enemies and feign madness. His future seemed uncertain at best, so he depended on the promise of God and comforted himself with God’s steadfast love. I’m sure there were many times where David prayed, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live.”

Then Saul was killed, and David became king. But it must have been a bittersweet moment for him, because his best friend Jonathan was killed along with Saul, so David’s ascension was tempered by harsh reality. Life is like that, isn’t it? But once again, “let your mercy come to me, that I may live…”

Then David became king, so he’s set now, right? Wrong. He gets bored, commits adultery, and then has Uriah killed trying to cover up his sin. Then Nathan called him out in front of everybody. Most despotic monarchs would have killed Nathan and denied everything, but not David. He confessed and threw himself at God’s feet. He dealt with the consequences of his actions the rest of his life. He experienced humiliation, rebellion, heartache and loss. But David found God’s mercy and lived.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you’ve been under appreciated. Perhaps you have felt adrift in circumstances, just making your way the best you can. Maybe you’ve been on top of the world. Maybe you have fallen from that mountaintop… I certainly have a couple of times, and let me tell you, it is lonely and painful. Perhaps you know that, too…

In this life, love and mercy are both things we all could use more of. Here’s a secret: you’ll find them in the Bible. They are in the story of David, and they leap from the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Matthew, John, and Paul. God’s mercy changes people. God’s people change the world. In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul said, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” If you study the Bible with an open heart, it will set you free by bringing you love, mercy, and promises to live by today. And tomorrow… And the next day….And oh yeah, every day after that.

Lord, when I rebel and turn my face away from your encouragement and grace;
When I listen to those inner voices, following them with stupid, selfish choices;
When I wander from your love and care, and find myself immersed in dark despair,
When I’ve given all I have to give: Be merciful to me, that I may live.

 

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

You, My Friend Are Holy. And Being Holy Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.

We are all pretty acquainted with the idea of being holy. We have all characterized some do-gooder as “holier than thou”, or a “holy roller”; and who among you has NOT said, “holy cow!” or “holy Toledo!”? But the Bible says that being holy may not be what you think it is. Consider this: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:12-13, NIV) This is one of those verses that you can breeze by, thinking, “Yeah, I get that, be like Jesus” without really capturing all of the impact it should have. Break it down a little and let it sink in. First of all, do you feel holy? I’d have to say that most of the time I don’t feel holy. Maybe I do every now and then, but usually I am just living my life, wrapped up in daily stuff, surrounded by culture and work and media and people and getting stuff done. I’m a pretty ordinary guy, living a pretty ordinary life. And yet Paul says that I am HOLY.

He uses the Greek word “hagios”, which means “set apart”. We often equate holiness with perfection, or perhaps reverence and devotion, but the Greek word comes from a root that simply means “different”. A temple was considered a holy place because it was different than all the other buildings, set apart for specific use. As God’s children, we are holy. We are set apart for His use. Yes we may be reverent some times, or we may be at work and just doing daily stuff, but in either case we are set apart, with an opportunity to live an inner life that is different than it ever could have been before.

Second, we are beloved. Do you ever stop and think about how loved you are? Paul uses the word agapao, the Greek word for godly, selfless love, the kind of love that he describes in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s also the word Jesus used in John 13. This is that unconditional kind of love, the kind of love that is committed, permanent and consistent. We have all experienced (and given) the incomplete human version of love, but here Paul is reminding us that not only are we given consecration, not only are we set apart, but we are loved without selfish motivation, without exasperation, without reservation, without limitation, and without expiration…You are precious to God. You are dearly loved. Paul says that we don’t have be motivated by God’s legalism or God’s judgment, but that we can be different because we are LOVED. God loves you intimately, completely, romantically, sacrificially, eternally. As a result, he says, we can put on a whole new outfit, clothing ourselves in tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Spend a little time today feeling holy, and then take a few minutes to allow yourself to feel absolutely loved. Put on your new clothes. I think you’ll find that your outfit also includes a new set of glasses that will help you see yourself—and everything else—in a brand new way.

If you don't live in utter consecration,
And find yourself feeling some exasperation, 
Or have inclination to feel some frustration,
Remember the Father has set you apart,
To start being holy, from deep in your heart.
Not "holier-than-thou" like some people can be,
But reflecting the love that He gave you and me:
Tender mercies and kindness, humility, meekness--
The Spirit supporting our hearts and our weakness--
Long-suffering, acting in love towards each other,
With patience, be willing to forgive a brother
Like Christ forgave us: we should love one another! 
Your righteous indignation only gives limitation;
Love without reservation could change our whole nation!
God loves you earnestly, passionately, intimately,
Completely, romantically, and sacrificially,
Fervently loving us throughout eternity,
Keeping us sheltered from Satan's abuse,
But setting His children apart for his use:
Be holy, redeemed for a life that reflects
All the Grace and the love that your Father expects.

 

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Foundation: Build Your House Upon the Rock That Won’t Roll

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his foundation on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)

When it comes to building, everything in the structure depends on the foundation. Jesus knew about construction because he was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3), so his statement about what makes a house strong is more than just common sense, it is a professional opinion.

If you think about a foundation, it is below the surface, something that you can’t really see, that doesn’t draw your attention. We spend far more time looking at the aesthetic details of a house than at its foundation; but if the foundation fails, all the designer details fail with it. If the house collapses, then the wall texture, the upgraded light fixtures and the crown molding have all become worthless. It’s not only true about construction, it’s also true about life.

Whatever philosophy or religion you choose to build upon better have a good foundation. In our world we build upon all sorts of foundations. Some of them are authentic, and some of them are not. Even when they are not true, people still build elaborate structures upon them, and then add many details to draw your eye away from the foundation. The shifting sands of falsehood may hold things up for a while, but Jesus said that such structures will ultimately fall. He also said, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and DOES THEM” is a wise person who has built on the rock.

What do you think of Jesus’ sayings? How many of them are you familiar with? Jesus taught somewhere between 33 and 60 parables, depending on who is keeping score and how you define and count them. They are all in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) although some scholars feel that the Good Shepherd and the Vine are parables in John’s Gospel as well. How many can you name? I know a lot of people who think they know about Jesus but couldn’t name more than four or five of his parables… Have you ever actually read them all? Have you ever thought about practicing what they preach?

I think if you give them careful consideration, you just might find that Jesus 1) was incredibly wise, and 2) offers a solid foundation upon which to build your life. Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said this: ““Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but on what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” History proves that Napoleon was right. Those empires are all gone, swept away by the shifting sands of time and deceit. The Kingdom of God remains, secure upon the rock. Jesus said, (Matt 24:35) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” Did he tell the truth? So far, so good…

Napoleon and Caesar both had armies to command,
But history shows their empires were just built on shifting sand.
Jesus recommended that we build upon his sayings,
When storms and wind descend and we can feel our structure swaying.
Know the things that Jesus taught, and what he had to say;
His words will stand forever, though all else will pass away.
Build a firm foundation on His message and His calling:
When trouble comes, His wisdom may just keep your house from falling.

 

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Doing Good: The Best Way to Silence all of Your Critics

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good * you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (I Peter 2:15, NKJV) I think sometimes that Christianity is losing the debate out there… Our world seems to be changing around us, and when Christians try to stand for conservative values and sensible morality, they are dismissed as oppressive or old-fashioned, held up to ridicule, and even arrested.

Our culture believes that killing a fetus is ok, that it is reasonable to change genders, and that authority should be challenged. Social media is filled with debates where it is obvious that one side will not convince the other, and harsh words fly back and forth without affecting anyone who holds the opposing point of view (Except perhaps to make them more angry and more entrenched in their unreasonable position.)

Dialog has ceased in favor of diatribe; interaction has deteriorated into insults and invective. These types of personal attacks seem to be common whether the subject is abortion, gay marriage, politics, or race. Maybe you’ve been drawn into a Facebook or Twitter argument, and were surprised at the passion and hatred that was thrown your way. Did it change your mind about anything? Probably not.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that no one has ever been forcibly argued into the Kingdom of God. It is a volunteer organization. Anyone can join, and everyone has a choice. If you think about it, wouldn’t everybody want to join a group whose main values are grace, love, and peace? So why are churches shrinking? Why are so many people turned off by organized religion? Why is the vocal minority expanding, claiming huge chunks of Kingdom territory for its own, and why are Millennials leaving the church? Could it be that “ignorant men” are winning the debate because the people the Church is trying to reach are not being overwhelmed by goodness?

It is not a Christian’s mission to be moral or righteous; God gives us righteousness by faith. Peter says that God’s will is for us to do good things. Could it be that too many Christians are concerned with BEING good instead of DOING good? It could open up an existential debate. Descartes and Kant said, “To do is to be”. Socrates and Nietzsche said, “To be is to do.” Does what we believe show who we are, or does who we are show what we believe?

Jesus knew that what we do is a reflection of who we are, and so he said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:35) He agreed with the great modern philosopher Frank Sinatra, who said “Do-Be-do-Be-do.” A quote I remember from college was from Peter Lord, who said: “What you REALLY believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.”

The point is, we Christians will not silence ignorance by our crafty arguments or by being “holier-than-thou”. Peter says we will share our faith with those who disagree most effectively by doing good to others. And if you think, “Well, I do lots of good things, so I’m covered”, then consider the twist James puts on it: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Voltaire echoed that verse when he said, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.” Have you done good things? Good! Is there more we can do? Absolutely. Let’s get out there and argue with our good works. Change the debate and change the world.

When other people see your life, assume that this is true:
They do not listen to your words, but to the things you DO.
The world is full of ignorant men who argue night and day;
The church will never reach them merely by the things we SAY.
St Frances preached perhaps the greatest sermon ever heard:
"I preach Christ always; but, when necessary I use words."
Less debate, less judgment and less hate should be unfurled:
Change debate to love, and then go out and change the world.

*(And to all your grammarians out there, yes I know that technically it should be “do well” or “do good [things]”, and not “do good”, so just assume that where I have said, “do good” I am actually inferring the correct form. I was conforming with the King James version in writing this.)

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Perspective: What You can’t See is What you SHOULD See

We are concerned about many temporary outcomes in this world, and yet we are unconcerned about eternal ones. Perhaps we have the wrong perspective…

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31, NIV)

Have you had a bad week? Are there times when you feel under the pile, alone and neglected, and you’re just not feeling it? There are two things that jump out of this passage, and both of them have to do with perspective. In order to consider that, I think you have to start by putting perspective itself into perspective. A woman named Edith was at the deathbed of her longtime husband Ralph. He looked up at her and said, “Edith, I remember playing football in high school and breaking my leg. You rushed over from the cheerleading squad and you were right there with me. Then, later in college when I almost flunked out and quit, Edith, you were right there with me. And when we got married and started our own business, and it failed, you were right there with me. And now here I am in the hospital, with a bad heart, and Edith you are right here with me… You know, Edith, I’m beginning to think you are BAD LUCK!” Sometimes in life, how you look at things makes a very big difference in how you FEEL about things


.
Jesus says that the way we look at things is wrong. First, he says, we are consumed with the temporary when we are participating in the eternal. Our perspective is wrong. Our spiritual life is far more important (and far longer) than our physical life, and yet where is our focus? Do you spend more time each day taking care of your physical body—cooking and eating, drinking, working out, bathing, deciding what to wear, doing nails, applying makeup, doing hair, shaving, etc.—than you spend on your spiritual self? Change your perspective. Don’t stress over temporary stuff while ignoring the eternal stuff. Then he reminds us that we need to shift our perspective on what has value. Small things matter. Intimacy matters. Jesus says that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered”, and that God is aware of what is happening in your life down to the smallest details. If that’s true, then we can take heart knowing He cares about us so intimately. In 1905, Civilla Martin and her husband were visiting a couple named Doolittle in Elmira, New York. These friends were quite cheerful in spite of several afflictions. She says: “One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” In the hymn Civilla Martin wrote that year it says, “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Jesus says that if God is aware of a tiny sparrow’s fall, then take heart: He values YOU, and He is aware of your afflictions as well.

When it feels like life is hard no matter what you do,
It may not just be circumstance: it might depend on YOU.
The Lord sees great and mighty things; He sees the sparrow, too;
You may think God doesn’t know just what we’re going through,
So change your life by changing to a brand new point of view:
His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over you.

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Words Matter: Is What you say Helping or Hurting?

Words matter, don’t they? Have you ever stopped to consider the power of words and how much they influence what we think and what we do?
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, NKJV). This quote from Proverbs extolls the positive potential of words and reminds us that they are actually communications currency. They express how we feel and what we think. Without them we are on an island longing for expression.

When I went to Angola in 1975 as a BSU Summer missionary, I discovered that culture shock was not being surprised by what other people do, or dealing with “When in Rome”, but it was the difficulty of communicating, of having things to say and being unable to say them. In a Portuguese speaking nation, my halting Spanish only helped a little, and I became frustrated over the narrow boundaries it set for me. I could barely get directions or ask for help (and that was with the Portuguese, forget about trying to understand any of the very common native dialects like Mbundu or Ki Mbundu). It was ironic that I was proud of being called articulate in an article written about my upcoming trip, and I floundered around in frustration once I got there. I felt like I was stupid and slow, and was sure that everyone else felt that way about me too. I realized how much of my image of myself was tied to being able to say words, or in this case, being UNABLE to say them…

Words have magnitude. They can assassinate character and start wars. Words can connect us or they can divide us. Solomon knew the value of words, and he compared them to expensive jewelry. He said that ONE word spoken at the right time was a treasure, a work of beauty and craftsmanship. He compared it to something beautiful made from precious metals, something temporary that offered lasting and incorruptible value. One easy application of this verse is: say something nice to everyone you meet today. Give them verbal jewelry, and bless them with spoken treasure that has lasting value.

And while you are thinking about saying nice things, don’t forget that what we say cuts both ways: Do you remember the nicest thing someone ever said to you? (Probably not) But I bet you remember the meanest. There are things that still come back to me from middle school and high school, hurtful words that I remember from over 45 years ago, sitting there still trying to hide the golden apples in my memory. So today, give someone words of encouragement that will stand atop all those old words of discouragement. Give them fresh shiny jewelry that sparkles from the corners of their minds. Speak something “fitly” today!

Jesus understood the value of words, too. He said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Luke 21:33) So far (although it’s only been 2000 years) he is absolutely correct. He says that words are the one currency we handle here on earth that will mean something in eternity. What we say here, and how we feel about words will matter forever. “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Get to know what Jesus says, and do not be ashamed of it. You might find that it’s worth far more than apples of gold in settings of silver.

A word fitly spoken can heal a heart broken,
And can feel like a gift while it offers a lift!
A word can be used to deliver tomfoolery,
Or it can be like some beautiful jewelry,
Meant to embellish, to bless, to adorn!
Such words are a gift that is meant to be worn!
It’s easy to give them; just try it, you’ll see
They are silver and gold you can give folks for free.

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If You Like Betting, Here’s a Tip About Sins: They Always Pay Off

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…” Isaiah 1:18-19

The Bible seems to make a big deal about sin, but the whole idea of sin is not a real popular topic in our culture. If you call something sin, then you are defining what people should or shouldn’t do, and we should all be able to decide that for ourselves, right? If you call me a sinner, then perhaps you are being biased or judgmental. Who are you to judge what is wrong or right?

Sin suggests personal failure and individual accountability, but when people do something wrong in our society there are suddenly a vast array of excuses and explanations about why it’s suddenly ok to break the law or disobey authority. Somebody else did something wrong, so it’s ok for me to do something wrong in return. (Whatever happened to “two wrongs don’t make a right”?)

The New Testament uses the Greek word amartano for sin. It means “I miss the mark”. It was a term also used in archery to describe any shot that didn’t hit the bulls-eye. The whole notion of sins is not so much connected to every individual act, but rather the impact of falling short, of failing to achieve perfection. If you miss the mark, then you have sinned. Perfection equals sinless-ness. Anything less than perfection equals sin.

In Romans 3:23, Paul says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Since nobody is perfect, then everybody is a sinner. Them. Me. You. We are all subject to sin, and yes, we all lie, cheat, disobey, disrespect, demand our own way, and do wrong. Here’s what Paul says about that in the first part of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.”

So, what’s the big deal about sin? The presence of sin provides a certain payday, and its ultimate reward is always death. Isaiah uses graphic terms to describe it. He says your sins “are like scarlet”, and “red as crimson”. If you have ever killed a deer or butchered an animal, then these descriptions make sense. The blood price of sin is death, and Isaiah reminds us that sin is an ugly, messy, despicable business.

Isn’t it interesting that Satan, who wants us all to die, markets sin as fun, when ultimately it’s really just the opposite? He says that the Lord is like a cosmic kill-joy who wants to take away all our fun, but if you drill down into the logical extension of sin, perhaps there is a larger picture. They say that the most common last words in Texas are “Hold my beer and watch this!” That’s probably not true, but consider: Getting a nice warm buzz on cold beer helps us to party, but when you find yourself crossing out of your lane into that semi, or dying in a hospital bed from cirrhosis of the liver, then sin is not really so fun anymore… Recreational drugs can get you high and provide escape, but when you are fighting addiction and can’t shake it, then sin suddenly stops being fun. The heat of passion might seem exciting, but when you find yourself in a broken relationship, or sitting in a clinic about to have an abortion, then sin is really not so fun anymore…

God doesn’t hate sin because it’s fun. He hates sin because it’s deadly. God created us in his image, blessed with His love and possibilities, offering us all the trees in the garden and eternal life in return for obedience—and instead we chose self-will, fun and death. Be grateful today that our Father understands the impact of sin, and provided the answer.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus Christ offered himself in our place as a sinless substitute to pay our sinful death penalty. Isaiah says that our scarlet sins will be made white as snow, and our crimson stain will be as white as wool. When you read ALL of Romans 6:23, Isaiah’s words make sense: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have ever sinned, be grateful.

Every man or woman who has ever drawn a breath
Will someday learn the wages of that dreadful sin is death.
Adam and Eve discovered that when Paradise was Lost,
And made their own decisions without reckoning the cost.
And so it is with all of us. The courtroom we are in
Demands we pay the deadly, scarlet penalty for sin.
But God allowed His Son to pay our penalty in full:
Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool!
Though Satan calls for us to join his deadly, angry horde,
The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

What Gifts are the Very Best Kind of Gifts to Open?

We all like opening gifts, and Jesus pointed out that we also enjoy giving good gifts to someone we love: “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11, NIV)

Right after he instructed his followers to ASK (“Ask, Seek, and Knock), Jesus spoke confidently of the fact that the Father gives good things to those who ask Him. I don’t know about you, but I personally have asked God for a lot of things that I didn’t get. (Ok, so maybe they were utterly selfish things, or maybe I was trying to make a deal with God to avoid consequences, but I asked and did not receive. So does that mean Jesus was lying, or that he just didn’t know what he was talking about? Or did it perhaps mean that I had absolutely the wrong perspective on gifts, and on how God gives?) I know the Bible teaches that God loves to bless His children with gifts, but is that really true? I do know the Bible uses the word “give” 1433 times, and that’s a LOT. But how many of them have to do with God’s gifts to us?

Read the creation account. God GAVE creation to man. In Genesis 9:3 God said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” The Lord told Abram, “Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17) Read all the “gives” in the Bible, and I think you will find that God has been pretty consistent about giving. Paul echoes this teaching about God’s generosity, and He extends it beyond creation or even a promised land into another realm: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12, NIV) Paul says that God has given us his Spirit so that we can recognize the things he has given to us. Put on your spiritual glasses for a minute. Make a list of the things God has given you.

We almost always start with material things—and I’m not saying that they are not indicators of God’s generosity—but I’m also not sure that material comforts and money are that important to Him either. (For some reason that makes me think of Tevya singing “If I Were a Rich man” in “Fiddler on the Roof”. He talks to God about material blessing and says, “I realize that it’s no sin to be poor; but it’s no great honor, either.” Tevya thought that perhaps God’s plan would not be disturbed by making him a rich man, but still discovered God’s presence in his own humble circumstances…)

So try to set material gifts aside for a moment and reflect on just the Spiritual blessings that God has given us for free: His Son. His Spirit. Access to the throne of Grace. His Presence. Prayer. Fellowship. The New Covenant. Perspective. Love. Wisdom. The Word. Adoption into His family. Resurrection. The hope of Glory. I could go on, but hey, it’s YOUR list. What has God given you? How generous has He been? Perhaps the true depth of His generosity can be measured by the costliest gift. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, NIV) Ask. Seek. Knock. Receive.

Which of you would give your child a snake and not a fish?
And who would give a rock when it is bread for which they wish?
If you, being evil, give good gifts to those you love,
Then how much will your Father give you more from heaven above?
It is not just material things, or opening some presents,
But basking in your Father's love and being in His presence.
If He could give His son for us, it's very clear to see
That we cannot out-give the Father's generosity.

 

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Good Fruit Only Comes From Good Soil; What Kind of Soil are YOU?

“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the soil on the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” (Luke 8:4-6, 8 NKJV)

People had started paying attention to Jesus, partly because of his teaching, and partly because of the miracles he did. His fame had spread, and Luke says people “had come to him from every city”. Perhaps because he had attracted such a wide audience, Jesus cast a wider net as he taught. He described a sower putting seed on various kinds of soil.

Have you ever planted something to watch it grow? Planted the seeds of a fruit and watched it produce MORE fruit? Ever gotten excited about seeing something sprout, pushing its way through the topsoil and becoming a plant? I remember planting a bean in a jar in elementary school and being fascinated with watching it change and grow, seeing how the bean was transformed from something dry and seemingly dead into a green new plant. The roots went down, obtaining nutrients from the soil, and the leaves went up, seeking the light!

In an agrarian society, this image would have resonated with almost everyone. Even people who weren’t farmers kept gardens and grew fruit trees, herbs or vegetables. Everybody had experience with the varying results that came from sowing seeds, so his listeners were absolutely connected to his premise, and could relate to planting and growing stuff. I would imagine that some people connected the dots, but since there were deeper meanings in this analogy his disciples had to ask, “What does this parable mean?”

Jesus told them that this is more than just a story about a guy planting seeds. It is a Parable about the word of God, which falls onto all kinds of soil, where it will either take root and grow or remain fruitless because the soil will not accept it or support it. He says that WE (the listeners) are the soil, either rejecting or nurturing the word. Reading the parable, a couple of observations come to mind:

1) The transforming power of the word of God can bring new life out of something seemingly dead. But it doesn’t happen from a surface interaction, it requires putting down some roots and reaching up to the light.

2) Even though the Word has transforming power, it only flourishes in the right kind of soil. Jesus said that when cast on the wayside, where traffic and distractions would push it aside, it would be trampled down by the crowd, or eaten up by passing flights of fancy; when cast on rocks, or a hard surface where no roots could develop, it would wither away.

I’m often amazed at how summarily people reject the Word of God based on assumptions or mere casual surface interaction. They take a small sampling and then say, “The Bible is a myth”, or “It’s a book with some incredible old stories and wise sayings, but it’s out of touch with the modern world”. But they haven’t ever read it, and they have never applied it to their lives. There are indeed people for whom the Word of God has no transforming power, because they do not accept it or support it. They give it a hard surface glance and move on, so that it never takes root and provides miraculous, life-changing growth.

On the other hand I know people who seek its wisdom and accept its teachings. They are the type of soil that has been broken, and are prepared to accept new life. They will put down roots and reach up to the light. There’s an old saying, “Show me a person whose Bible is falling apart, and I’ll show you a person whose life usually isn’t.” Such people discover that the Bible is connected to History, current events, and even to the future. They find that the Bible is relevant and profitable, full of insight into human nature as well as sage advice about how to live.

It’s interesting that the same book (the same seed) can have such different outcomes, but as Jesus said, it’s really about the type of soil upon which it falls. The seed offers the same potential for growth wherever it is sown, but Jesus points out that there are very different outcomes from a busy wayside, barren rocks, or freshly broken soil that is prepared to accept and support the Word of God.

So…easy question: What kind of soil are you?

The sower went to sow some seed on various kinds of ground,
And some fell on the wayside as he scattered it around.
It never flourished or took root, was stepped upon by shoe and boot,
and perished there where it was put, merely trampled underfoot...
Some seeds fell on rocky soil that wasn't very deep,
And they could not find places that their roots could hold and keep;
Although they sprang right up with pride, 
they had no moisture there inside,
And even though they really tried, 
they withered on the vine, and died...
But some seeds fell on ground prepared to offer them some growth;
They needed depth and nurture, and this soil provided both. 
They weathered storms and heat and cold, 
they grew up green and strong and bold,
And they provided fruit like gold, and multiplied a hundredfold.
So when the Sower sows His seed, and offers you his toil,
Make sure you yield a hundredfold because you're fruitful soil.

 

To buy my latest book, 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=1472300960&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle version, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1472300960&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread