Micah Had a Hopeless Case; But His Advocate Encouraged Him to Rise, and Shine!

If you are living in darkness, Micah says you have an advocate, and that you will again be able to rise and shine.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.” (Micah 7:7-9, NIV).

Micah

Micah predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, at a time when Jerusalem seemed to have recovered some of their spiritual equilibrium under Hezekiah. After years of darkness under evil rulers, it seemed that God’s glory over Israel was about to shine again in perpetuity. Yet Micah preached that the opposite was going to happen. I’m sure he was criticized and ridiculed, and there were times when it must have seemed as if he was swimming against the current, standing alone in a culture that felt somewhat holy and successful.

He says two things that are instructive. 1) He says “I wait for God my Savior”. How many times do I get impatient with God? We are the instant gratification generation, and often try to move far ahead of God’s timing or our own preparedness. Abram waited 25 YEARS for God to fulfill his promise of a son. Moses spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court, and then 40 YEARS as a fugitive before God called him to lead Israel out of slavery. After his conversion, Paul spent at least three YEARS in the desert being prepared for his mission. Over and over the Bible illustrates that God’s timing often requires patience.

2) Micah sees God’s judgment as just, and acknowledges God, not just as his righteous judge, but also his advocate. He places his fate in God’s hands. Micah allows the light of God to shine into the darkest parts of his heart. It stands to reason that Micah has to tell his defense attorney everything, and he has to confess to all of his crimes. That might be especially awkward when your advocate is also your judge. In God’s courtroom, however, it is the best move to make.

Confession is not only good for the soul, it is the key to staying right with God. David committed terrible sins, but stayed intimate with God because of his contrite confession. Micah has confidence that he has an advocate in God because he confessed. According to John, it is the same with us: “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And, “if any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the righteous.” (1 John 1:9, 2:1). You want to hope in the Lord? Confess. Rise after you have fallen? Confess. Live in the light? Confess. Receive defense from the best advocate ever? You got it. Take a minute this morning to confess humbly before your God. Then watch. Hope. Rise. Shine!

Micah lived in misery, without a hope in sight,
And yet he said with confidence, “The Lord will be my light!”
Micah stood before the court whose judgment he must face,
And yet he said “Lord I confess. Please, Father, plead my case.”
So when you stand before the bench, like me and all the rest,
Make sure you have a lawyer who will plead your cause the best;
In this case you will have the greatest chance if you’ve confessed.
Even though there may be darkness covering your eyes,
Confess, and let God plead your case, and see His light, and Rise.

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

 

Whining Isn’t What You Expect From a Prophet, But Somehow This Sounds Familiar

Remember being in VBS and listening to the story about Jonah and the whale? (Well the Bible says “great fish”, but the key thing is he was swallowed. (That DOES recall a Seinfeld episode where George pretended to be a marine biologist and said he walked right up to the big fish! Jerry: “Mammal.” George, engrossed in telling his story about being a marine biologist: “Whatever.”) You probably recall that Jonah was ultimately successful in preaching mission to Nineveh, but then he kinda spoiled the whole love thing by whining about it to God.

At any rate, Jonah is one of the more famous prophets, probably because of the whole “made for VBS” fish story, but his story is really deeper than just being eaten by a whale. He really should be famous because ran from and disagreed with God’s will, and then couldn’t stop whining about it. Unfortunately, this whole whining thing still pops up in the church from time to time… In Jonah’s case, he was party to a downright miracle, and he was unhappy about it. Is there anything we can learn from him today?

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it… But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 3:10; 4:1-3, NKJV).

whining prophet

Jonah was not a very cooperative prophet. First, he ran in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. (Thank goodness we’ve never done that!) He only finally went to Nineveh kicking and screaming, objecting to the possibility that God might spare them. (Apparently he knew better than the Lord did, so he was just going to go his own way, thank you. Have you ever run from a ministry opportunity because it didn’t fit in with YOUR plans?) And when God spared Nineveh, Jonah went off and pouted. He set a new record for whining among great men of God. Even when good happened, he had the wrong attitude about the right thing.

On one hand, Jonah could be compared to some pastors today: they are motivated by ego more than by God; they have their own agenda, not the Lord’s; and they are driven by culture instead of God’s word. But, wait! If you agreed with the comments about some of those Pastors, then read through Jonah again…BECAUSE:

Looking at this text, Jonah would also fit in well with some of today’s churchgoers: he knows more than the leadership; if he doesn’t like what they are doing he’ll go somewhere else; if the church doesn’t do what they want, then the whining starts: they will go off and sulk; and they’ll gripe and complain every step of the way. (Ha, you were nodding your head when I was talking about preachers, but now you’re saying, “Wait just a dang minute! He’s quit preaching and gone to meddling!”) Sometimes, it’s probably best to 1) listen to God, 2) just roll up our sleeves and be open to the ministry God wants us to do, and 3) serve.

Don’t worry about who’s wrong or right,
Just serve Lord with all your might!
Humility is God’s delight:
It doesn’t honor Him when we fight.
Remember these words in capital type:
THE HOLY SPIRIT DOESN’T GRIPE!

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
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Look in the Mirror. If You See a Judge There, Maybe It’s time for a New Look

Jesus must have been pretty familiar with Obadiah, since many of his statements about being judgmental resonate pretty strongly with this short prophetic word. One of the things Obadiah said could be paraphrased like this: Take a hard look in the Mirror: if you see a judge looking back at you, consider this…

look

“The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” (Obadiah v 15, NIV). Reading through the Minor Prophets is not for the timid. This verse certainly connects with Amos and his dire warnings about the Day of the Lord. If you look through these prophetic books, there are plenty of references to God as a Holy and Righteous Judge.

At the same time, it is interesting to note that this theme resonates in Scripture: Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Matthew 7:2 says, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” While the Bible is not real big on karma (See: eastern religions, legalism, causality, and ‘tit for tat’), it is pretty consistent about consequences. And there is the nagging suspicion I have that Jesus meant what he said—that I will be judged, somehow, some way, with the same intolerant standards that I have used to dismiss others.

I have heard a lot of Christians say, “well, of course, God won’t judge ME, because I am covered by grace.” And yes, I believe we are ultimately and irrevocably covered by grace. But I also think that I will stand before God among the great and small (way back there in the “small” section), and I will be humbled by how I lived; that I will be ashamed of what I did (and didn’t do); and that I will see how short-sighted and ignorant my judgments were. Things will look differently to me then than they do now. I will feel the weight of my own selfishness and pettiness, and my sins will be evident before God. (And maybe everybody!)

Yes, I am confident that I will look at my Savior and behold the majesty of God’s grace, and yes I am confident in my salvation. But we Christians tend to see the cross as our escape, and see judgment as an “either-or” situation. Both Jesus and Paul said that followers of Christ would not experience condemnation; I’m not sure either one said we would not experience judgment.

Perhaps, with a whole eternity available for God to work in us and on us, there could be a “both-and” possibility in which ALL of these verses are true… I’m probably treading on thin theological ice to suggest such a thing, but we know that 1) all men will stand before God in judgment, (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:12) and that 2) believers will face their own specific judgment before the Bema seat (I Corinthians 3).

Nowhere are we told that believers are exempt from or immune to judgment, yet I know I often live as if I can make all the mistakes I want, or be as mediocre as I please and it doesn’t hurt anything. OR, I subtly (or blatantly) pronounce judgment on others, particularly if they are liberal or conservative, divorced, or gay, or tattooed, or different from me. Perhaps you do the same thing? If so, read Matthew 7:1-2 again. It says what Obadiah says. In any case, it would probably improve our behavior if all of us Christians lived as if we would indeed reap what we sow, and be judged exactly the way we have judged others. If I read my Bible correctly, we will be.

Judging is an easy thing; we do it every day.
As Christians, we judge “sinners” for the things they do and say.
We can call out public sins, or stuff that no one sees,
Sounding in our righteousness like modern Pharisees.
Jesus knew the evil and the wickedness of men,
But said he only came to save us, rather than condemn.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged” is something that he said,
While Obadiah said your deeds will fall upon your head!
So please be careful how you judge, and what you say and do,
Since every judgment that you make will also cover you.
Jesus made a statement: from its terms he never budged;
Remember that he said, “Judge not, let you yourselves be judged.”

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
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Day of Judgment: It’s Coming. Don’t Feel Too Smug About It

(For those of you following along, you have now covered the first thirty Books of the Bible. We started in Genesis and have been reading day by day straight through into the Minor Prophets. We will break a bit at Easter, but will pick up again right after so that we will have enjoyed devotional thoughts from all 66 books…)

Here’s day Thirty-one: If you are pretty secure about what you believe, you may feel a little smug sometimes. (Thank goodness I know the Lord, but it’s too bad about all those other folks!) As Christians, we often gravitate to an “insider-outsider” paradigm, happy to be safe within the “circle of trust”. Amos warned against feeling too smug or taking anything for granted: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.” (Amos 5:18-19, NIV).

I worry sometimes about us Christians… Wrapped in the cloak of grace, we feel immune from God’s judgment. We get puffed up sometimes, feeling secure enough in our salvation to condemn those with more obvious sins. We live in nice houses and dress up and go to church while there are needy and hungry people in our cities. We can easily see how much others need to repent while we feel inwardly proud of our own spirituality. We may not blatantly mistreat sinners, but we sure don’t tolerate them and we feel secretly glad that it isn’t us.

day
We pick and choose Scripture, ignoring Christ’s admonition that we should not judge others, lest we ourselves be held to the same standard of hypocritical self-righteousness. We think we are ready for the day of the Lord, but Amos says that may be presumptuous at best. Revelation 20:12 tells us that the dead will all stand before the throne to be judged according to their works. Jesus speaks of the birth pains preceding his return, saying there will be wars, earthquakes and famines— “because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.” (Mk 13:19).

The Day of the Lord will be preceded by conflict and anguish, by upheaval and disaster, and it will usher in the judgment of all men, great and small. Joel called it “great and dreadful”.
Amos says that some who outwardly express the desire for Christ to return may be blind to how unprepared they really are for such an event. Their assumptions about security may be mistaken, and they may find that the earthly identity and possessions that made them feel immune from judgment are really an illusion. Amos challenges our smug assumptions and false security by asking, “Why do you long for the day of the Lord?” He makes me think that I better have my heart ready for that Day, because my place in it may be way different than I assume. I am often ready to judge others, as if I myself were somehow above that possibility, but what Amos is really saying is, “Be careful what you wish for…”

The whole idea of Judgment Day should make us think again;
We’ll stand before the Lord, and He will judge the souls of men.
Every man will face His judgment, whether great or small,
And as we stand before His throne, the Lord will judge us all.
Many of us think that we don’t have to be committed,
That if we just acknowledge Him, then we will be acquitted;
And yet we live with petty sins, we judge the other guys,
We live in Satan’s kingdom, and we listen to his lies,
Assuming we are safe, while feeling pretty smug and wise,
Praying Jesus would come soon. Well, try this on for size:
For many folks the Judgment Day will be a big surprise!
Fear the Lord! extend His Grace and Love to every man,
And take as many folks to heaven with you as you can.
It is not your job to judge the people, or to smite them;
Tell them all about God’s kingdom: Love them, and invite them.

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

 

Locusts of Sin Bring Destruction to Everything they Touch

I remember seeing an old movie about some settlers on the prairie who were attacked by a swarm of locusts. The insects literally darkened the sky like a cloud and brought darkness and fear everywhere they went. These clouds of millions of bugs literally consumed all of the crops in their path. These kinds of swarms of Locusts came sweeping through Biblical lands from time to time, eating crops, consuming future food supplies and leaving devastation in their wake…

locusts

Here in the 30th book of the Bible, Joel compares the judgment day of the Lord to such an event, a time of fear and devastation. “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity…Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…“ (Joel 2:11-13; 21; 25, NIV)

The “Minor” prophets delivered messages that warned about the impending Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and calamity brought about by the unfaithfulness of Israel. God’s intent to allow judgment to fall on Israel is a major theme in the Minor Prophets. Israel is warned that if they keep following little gods, they will indeed encounter justice at the hands of the Living God.

There is, however another theme that stands out like a beautiful flower growing alone on a rough mountain ledge: restoration. God sends the warnings repeatedly to call Israel back to Himself. We have the benefit of hindsight, and yes, Israel left God; they experienced the total devastation akin to locusts eating all of their crops. At the risk of trivializing calamity,  the warnings God gave are actually more significant than the real tragedies that befell Israel.

God’s consistent message was: Sin has consequences, and if you choose to live in sin, you will experience devastation and death. Stay with me, and you’ll be safe and protected. Return to me in genuine, heart-felt repentance, and you will know nothing but grace and compassion. If you don’t choose the locusts of sin, you’ll have my blessing instead!
Two thoughts occur to me here: we all have a tendency to “rend our garments but not our hearts.” First, acting like a Christian for others to see is not the same thing as being yielded and sold out to God. (I know this from years of experience). Remember that He looks upon our hearts, not just our outward behavior.

Second, when we turn to our Father with genuine humility, God will restore us. In Old Testament times, people who felt compelled to repent made a public display of it, tearing their clothes and laying prostrate on the street. Joel tells us to turn to the Lord, to rend our hearts and not just our garments. He says that God intends to make us whole, and to rebuild what our sinful choices have torn down, what the locusts of sin have destroyed.

After all that Job experienced, after all of the devastation and loss, when he turned back to God, his life was restored. Job 42:10 says “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” His repentance resulted in restoration and revival. So, rend your heart instead of your garments! If you are acting like a Christian but harboring locusts, clean house!

Farmers labored every day to earn a living from their fields,
Applying muscle, toil and sweat to try to get the greatest yields.
And then the cloud appeared– you couldn’t even do the math–
As locusts by the millions brought destruction in their path.
They ate the crops, the flowers, and they even ate the grass;
They only thought of selfish appetite when they would pass.
Well, sin is just like that. It only thinks of selfish things,
And doesn’t even care about the destruction that it brings;
It comes into your life and can destroy your peace of mind,
Without regard to all the pain and death it leaves behind…
God said, “Turn to me with all your heart, and not for show–
And I will give you grace, and let compassion overflow.”
If sin has hurt and knocked you down, don’t think that you are beaten
For God says he’ll repay you for the lost years that were eaten!
If you can turn away from sin, and simply trust the Lord,
You may just be surprised to see the things that He restored.

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

 

Restoration for the Smitten Suitor and the Unfaithful Wife

Sin threatened to destroy the relationship between the Smitten Suitor and the wayward bride. Only one thing could bring them Restoration. The Book of Hosea is one of the most unusual and interesting in the Bible, and it tells a story about love and restoration that will expand the boundaries you have about both of those things.

After both his heart and their wedding vows have been broken by an unfaithful bride, the groom pulls himself together and makes another vow: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’”. (Hosea 2:14-16, NIV).

Hosea’s prophecy compares Israel to an unfaithful wife who committed all manner of adulterous acts. (It’s interesting that Hosea chooses a wayward bride, since our stereotypes might suggest that husbands are far more likely to be unfaithful than wives…) In this prophecy, the Lord is her wounded husband whose passion cannot stem the righteous indignation and judgment his wife deserves. And yet in the middle of his anger and grief, these verses remind us that God has something else in mind for his wayward wife: restoration.

restoration

He not only promises to restore their relationship, he intends to woo her and speak tenderly to her. Just as I am often startled by the Old Testament promises of swift and certain judgment by a righteous God, I find myself equally surprised by this picture. God is the passionate and loving husband who has been cheated on and lied to, embarrassed and hurt to the core by his wife’s infidelities.

God’s people  have stopped worshipping the Lord and started giving their affection to other things, like money, status, control, or power. Hosea points out that Israel has forgotten her first love and traded it for shallow pagan rituals and illicit unions. They are estranged, and their relationship cries out for restoration with their creator and deliverer.

Let me make two observations: First, God is an emotional God. I think we sometimes feel like He is enthroned remotely, dispassionately over the universe, but remember: we are made in his image. We tend to think of God as a Judge; He thinks of us as a beloved spouse. The emotional winds that blow through us are shadows of the powerful emotions the Lord feels. He loves us wildly, completely, and powerfully, which leads logically to the second point: God’s love for you may be far deeper than you realize.

God’s love is not a theological construct, it’s not a Bible verse. It’s not even a religious love story told on a grand cosmic scale. It’s a passionate romance that includes betrayal and restoration. God is a lover smitten with His beloved; even when she betrays him (and, oh, she betrays him all the time!) He is reaching out to call her back. He plans to allure her, to shower her with affirmation and gentleness, to speak tenderly to her. The Lord will woo her with grace when He has every right to destroy her with judgment… He says that he loves her SO much that he will forgive her unfaithfulness and restore her as his one true bride, even though she hurt him so deeply.

Israel was so callous as to turn her back on the Lord, to ignore His loving pleas, and to go off chasing other (little) gods… Think about Hosea’s message and reflect on Israel’s unfaithfulness. They traded love for something less; they pursued selfish temporary satisfaction in place of abiding affection. How foolish could they be? How could they fail to see the error of their ways? Certainly they should have realized what they were missing. Say, when’s the last time you cheated on God?

We think of God as in command,
Enthroned out in some distant land,
The Righteous Judge who now condemns
The actions and the hearts of men.
And yet He sends us tender notes,
And fills His word with loving quotes,
Reminding us that His great love
Could never be expressed enough.
No matter what you think you’ve heard
Look deeper through His written word,
And then perhaps you’ll make a start
To see what’s written in His heart.
Look deep and see how much He feels!
You’ll find that He’s head over heels,
And even when you run away,
He’ll woo you every single day.
Discover, when you’ve gone off track,
Your Lover always wants you back.
Listen, now: His love is strong.
His love erases every wrong,
So listen: you can hear His song
Wooing you back where you belong…

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

 

 

Victorious Outcomes Aren’t the Only Thing That Makes You Victorious

There is an amazing story in Daniel that illustrates vividly that outcomes are not everything. Daniel’s friends declared that you can be Victorious, Whether in Victory or Defeat…

victorious

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV).

Daniel’s three friends were put to the test. Since they refused to bow down to a golden idol, the king decreed that they were going to be thrown into a fiery furnace. This was their response, and it is the essence of true faith: “We believe God will deliver us, and we’ll stake our lives on Him, but even if he doesn’t deliver us from the fire, it’s ok. We still won’t bow down to any idol or give our worship to anyone less than God.”

I think their response is fascinating because it provides the key to living a victorious life. We often want our faith validated by the results we desire. If I ask for protection, but something bad still happens, then God failed to be victorious! He didn’t do what I asked Him to do! Perhaps then, I might reason, God is not worthy of my faith. If I ask for healing, and don’t get it, then I could say He failed to provide a miracle. I could see it as God’s failure to take care of me, and be angry because I assume that I know more about appropriate outcomes than He does. If I had cancer, and went into remission, is that a miracle? If it comes back, is that God’s fault?

Just what is it that makes me victorious? Perhaps the miracle is God’s abiding presence, or peace within the valley of the shadow itself… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego staked their lives on God; either He would deliver them from the fire, or He would deliver them by letting them be consumed in the fire. It certainly looks easy on paper, removed from the consequences, but to these men in that moment it was all or nothing, wasn’t it?

Either outcome was the Lord’s, and their faith was justified regardless of circumstances. If they lived, they lived BY faith. If they died, they would die IN faith. The Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) He also said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

victorious contentment

Next time we pray for a selfish outcome, perhaps instead we should ask God for the courage to believe him regardless of what the outcome might be. Find that place in your heart and you will be victorious in every circumstance. I think you’ll find true worship as well.

Does victory only happen when we triumph, or are glorious?
Or should we redefine just what it means to be victorious?
The God we serve can save us from the devil’s fiery furnace,
But even if He doesn’t, and our circumstances burn us,
We can find His peace, and still be comforted by this:
We are victorious not by winning, but because we’re HIS.

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…

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

 

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. While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, He 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 seem like 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, be comforted by 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!

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 the screams of laughter when someone gets found.

As we read 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 a 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. 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!

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