Access To the Throne: Can we REALLY come Boldly Before Almighty God?

Men have always wanted to find God, and the Bible provides a record of that quest for access to the Almighty. It was a given that the Creator of all things would be majestic and powerful, and people in the Bible approached their Creator with fear and trepidation. That’s why it seems unusual that the writer of Hebrews challenged us with this:

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV) To the Hebrew mind, access to God was impossible. Having the ability to come boldly before the Great, Awesome, and powerful YHWH was unthinkable. Moses was more intimate with God than any other man, and yet God told him in Exodus 32 that “no man may see me and live.” Because of that, Moses was only permitted to get a glimpse of God’s back as He passed by.

access Moses

Dealing with God was life-and-death business, not something to be approached casually. Hebrews 10:31, perhaps mindful of the death of all Egyptian first-born sons, or the slaughter of over 200,000 Assyrians, says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”. In Jewish worship, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and that only happened once a year. It was such a sacred place that they tied a cord around his ankle so that if he was stricken dead while performing his duties, they could drag him out without going in themselves. Dealing with a Sovereign God who had the power of life and death was not something the Jewish people took casually.

The ministry of Jesus and the advent of Grace changed those dynamics. When Jesus died on the cross, Mark says, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38, NIV) In our current cultural world of accessible, casual worship, it is difficult for us to even imagine the gravity and the sanctity that the Jews had regarding God’s presence or being in the Holy Place. Worshipping the Lord, I think, meant something different to the men Jesus lived among than it does to us. I often think that our current trend of worship has lost much in terms of reverence and respect, and I hope I am not too cavalier about what being in church is really all about.

access church

(Hmmm…Since worship was so sacred and awesome, I wonder if they felt the same way about confession and repentance? Perhaps we can be too casual about those today as well. Maybe our prayers of repentance are serious business as well.) In any case, the New Testament makes the case that believers are allowed to interact with God in a totally new way. It says that we have intimate access to the Almighty. We no longer have to approach Him through a human intermediary.

If you want to know what that looks like, try noticing the way Jesus interacted with the Father. He spoke to Him often, privately and publicly; he prayed for long stretches of time. He seemed to be intimate and familiar with Him. Like Jesus showed us, we can go directly to our heavenly Father. Even though He is the most awesome, powerful force in the universe, we can approach Him anytime we want to seek grace and obtain mercy. When is the last time you really thought about God’s dreadful, fearsome power? And when was the last time you went boldly before His throne?

 

This principle was commonplace, you can trace it back to early days:
No matter how intense the chase,
No member of the human race could dare to look upon God’s face,
Or walk into the Holy Place! But then our Advocate made his case,
Removed our sin and our disgrace — He took us into His embrace:
From the Highest Throne to the lowest place,
Each one of us can access 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

Party?! Never Let it Be Said that Christians Don’t Know How to Party!

If you think the Bible doesn’t like a good party, then read this post all the way to the end: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8, NIV)

Jesus told his disciples that they were connected to him like branches to a vine, and that they should remain in him, abiding in a constant connection in order to receive sustenance and bear fruit. I used to think that such an arrangement would result in a somber kind of life, just meditating on Jesus all day or doing devotionals and such. A party would be out-of-place. The first impression many have about Christianity is that if we going to hang out with Christ 24/7, we are pretty much doomed to head straight to the monastery.

party monastery

And if we were honest we’d admit that Christians probably aren’t the group the world thinks of inviting first when they decide they want to party…

But consider these ACTUAL descriptions of Jesus: “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding party“. (John 2:1-2). “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” (Matthew 9:10). [Jesus said] “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Luke 7:34) Apparently Jesus and his crew were just the kind of guys people would WANT to roll up on their social gatherings (and I’m talking sinners here, not Sunday school teachers).

Sadly, that’s probably not what the prostitutes and sinners would say today about most Christians. I wonder what has changed… Jesus went to parties. He was criticized for it! HE HAD FUN. So. Should. We. Come on, ya’ll, being a Christian is AWESOME! Being connected to Jesus is a sustaining, spiritual nutrition-delivering pathway to life and growth. Jesus says that if we remain in him we will bear “much fruit”.

Tell me—what could be better on a hot day in July than biting into a sweet, succulent peach or cutting open a ripe, delicious watermelon? Jesus goes on to say that our fruitfulness is something that glorifies the Father! Do you ever stop and think of yourself as an example of God’s GLORY? According to Jesus, that’s what his disciples are. That’s what you are. If Jesus gave a party, then Robert Earl Keen would be RIGHT: the party would never end! So celebrate! Be glorious! Party!

fearless party

Some folks think that Jesus is a bunch of do’s and don’ts,
A list of things you cannot do–mostly can’ts and won’ts…
They say they’d rather party than spend all their time in prayer,
And yeah they went to church but it was pretty boring there…
Well let me tell you this: my Jesus hung out with the sinners,
And losers who were his disciples turned out to be winners.
My Jesus (yes I know I said these words redundantly)
Said that he came so we could live our lives abundantly!
His followers went to parties, got invited to events,
They saw him spreading love and joy most everywhere he went.
So if you want to party, follow Jesus and his friends,
Where the road goes on forever and the party never ends.

 

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

 

Infinite Dreams Deserve Infinite Possibilities: How About an Infinite God?

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he prays about the possibility of connecting finite man to an infinite God. The potential result causes him to run clean out of superlatives! “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:22, NKJV) Wow. Read that again. Paul says that God is able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

infinite glory

Stop and think about that one for a moment. Are you a dreamer? Do you dream BIG? Even if you do, Paul says it may not be big enough. If you question his judgment, or think maybe he was a bit off, then check out 2 Corinthians 12:4, where he describes himself as a man who, either in a vision or in reality, was “caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell…” His statements seem almost giddy, or an expression of infinite wonder by a visionary who had entered a dream-world of fantasy. We might expect that from Ezekiel or John, but it’s a little surprising coming from Paul.

In most of his epistle writing, Paul is more likely to offer a legal brief than a hyperbolic exaggeration. His letters abound with brilliance in terms of connecting the Old Testament Scriptures to the person of Jesus Christ, and his language is usually organized and logical. If he ever waxes eloquent, it is usually connected to God’s glory, which he somewhat sheepishly admits to the Corinthians that he saw firsthand.

So when Paul gives advice about an infinite God, we should consider the source. (After all, he had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees; trained under Gamaliel; a missionary who was “not ashamed of the gospel”; and the man who was caught up into the third heaven and had experienced glimpses of God that very few mortals can imagine.) If Paul says that we need to recalibrate our earthly expectations regarding what God has in store for us, maybe we should pay attention.

Our problem, he says, is not that we bother God by asking for too much; it’s that we limit ourselves by asking for too LITTLE. Jesus reminded us of that same thing in Matthew 7:11: “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!”

Paul says that God’s lowest starting point may just be exceedingly above our highest asking point. His smallest gift may be bigger than our biggest dream…. perhaps an infinite God offers more possibilities than we are aware of. As finite linear thinkers, we struggle with understanding God’s resources. We rarely imagine Him in all His infinite glory. Paul says we should venture out as far on the horizon of imagination as we can go; then go FARTHER. If you are willing to embrace that challenge, then Dream big. Pray big! God will take it from there.

Try to stretch your highest dreams as far as they can go;
Stretch them out until they pass all boundaries that you know.
Let God take them every one and sprinkle them with love,
And they’ll expand exceedingly abundantly above
The fondest wish and deepest dream that you’ve been thinking of.
Be infinite, and take your dreams to Jesus face to face:
His lowest starting point’s above your highest asking place.

 

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

The Devil is Fiction, Right? When Lyin’ Leads You to Your Adversary the Lion…

Men have talked about the devil for centuries, and I’m sure many people assume he is mythological or a fictional character. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44, NIV) The devil, you say? Isn’t he just an imaginary being with horns, a pitchfork and a tail? Certainly he doesn’t really wield influence in our world…

devil

In the same discourse where he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”, Jesus identified the devil as a murderer and a liar, and says he has always been that way, from the very beginning. Apparently Jesus thought the devil was as real as a heart attack. He also pointed out that anyone who does not value integrity or truth is actually Satan’s minion (and not the cute, “Despicable me” kind…).

A couple of observations: just like anything loving in this world must come from God (for God is love, 1 John 4:8, 16), anything deceitful must come from the devil, because he is the father of lies. Every falsehood and corruption of the truth comes from the father of falsehood. Jesus points out that our very desires can be influenced by the great deceiver, who enjoys bringing more death into the world.

If there is a spiritual realm where God is opposed by the devil, and if that spiritual realm impacts our world, then count on this: the Father of lies has many, many outlets. When we are bombarded with half-truths or minor variations of reality, it came from him. When revisions of history alter the facts just a little bit, and when the boundaries around actual events get moved, Satan has his hand in it. They don’t have to be big lies, they can be minor deviations. If you start with two parallel train tracks going for miles in a straight line, and deviate one just .005%, eventually that variation will cause a train wreck.

So… when media blurs the lines or tells only a part of the story, and when you encounter journalistic “reporting” that didn’t check its source, there is only one place it could have come from. When a politician lies (or reverses their position as if they never held the first one), we know who is speaking. If there is a devil, all of those lies are helping expand his kingdom. You know those times when we tell a little white lie? Guess where that comes from? When Truth is abused or damaged, guess who is happy about it?

Just as God motivates us to be loving and selfless, the Devil motivates us to be selfish and deceitful. When we love, we connect to something godly, and to God himself. When we lie, or listen to lies, well… Be careful out there. Peter said, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV). Lyin’ can lead you to the Lion. Don’t get et.

Watch the things you listen to, be careful what you read;
The world is full of bad advice that it wants you to heed.
I don’t know your opinion, what you think or how you feel,
But Jesus said the devil is alive, and mean, and REAL.
Peter said that Satan wants to have you for a meal!
He’s like a roaring lion on the hunt this very hour,
So please make sure that you are not the next thing he’ll devour.
Resist his lies and use God’s love to circumvent his power…

 

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

Abide in the Truth, Because “Wherever You Go, There You Are”

Abide is a word you don’t hear much anymore. I always think of it as coming from someone like Lonesome Dove’s Gus McCrae, who might have said, “I can’t abide a surly barkeeper.” It was also used more frequently in Biblical times. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in my word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32, NIV) More recently, in “The Big Lebowski”, Jeff Bridges famously described his state of being by saying, “The Dude Abides”. By his definition, if we abide we are chill, content, and at one with the universe.

abide Lebowski

We don’t use the word “abide” very often, but it means to accept or go along with something. In a Biblical sense, a disciple not only learns the Words of the teacher, but they ABIDE in them.

The Greek word for “abide” is also translated “continue in, to dwell, remain, endure, or stand.” By encouraging his disciples to abide in him, Jesus is basically saying that they need to reconfigure their lives to listen to him and to apply what he said. He is asserting that you find freedom not from Google, not in sound bites or tweets, but by being disciplined in the truth. In today’s culture, the idea of being someone’s disciple seems a bit old-fashioned. Why follow a teacher when you have the internet?

If I were the devil, and could not destroy the Truth itself (even though I’d been trying for over 2,000 years) then I would take another tack and try to change the way people HEAR the truth. If ABIDING in a teacher’s words was the most effective way to receive life-changing wisdom, then I would distract and diffuse… I’d emphasize individual freedom so that people would question every set of teachings, and then I’d send them many messages from many sources to keep them from following the words that could help them the most.

Our culture is moving so rapidly that the idea of abiding and remaining seems really old-fashioned, doesn’t it? Perhaps the closest equivalent we have today is in the world of sports, where athletes will follow a coach and abide in his words, but I don’t see that kind of disciple-producing progression happening in church. I wonder if the current generation could disconnect from media long enough to abide in something…But then everybody abides in SOME thing.

What do you abide in? I know guys who abide in sports or cars, I know women who abide in crafts or Pinterest, and people who abide in music or Snapchat or Instagram, but I don’t often meet someone who ABIDES in Jesus. Guys can remember how they played number 13 at such and such a golf course two years ago, but they don’t remember last week’s Sunday school lesson. Women talk about what they saw on Pinterest more often than they share the gospel. (Yeah I know, I’m trying to step on everyone’s toes, how am I doing?) There are darker things to abide in, but I don’t need to tell YOU, do I?

Jesus said, “if you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed.” What does a disciple look like? Well first of all, they are familiar with what Jesus taught, and they embrace and inhabit his words. If, as Jesus claimed, he was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, and if his words are truth, then it is only logical that Satan makes it his full-time occupation to try to replace, rewrite, or distract from what Jesus said.

The Father of Lies works in every generation to destroy the truth. Is anybody else but me concerned that truth is in such short supply these days? It’s not in advertising, it’s not on the internet, it’s not on TV, it’s not in journalism, and it’s not in politics…. We do not find freedom in liberties, but in Truth. As truth diminishes, so does our freedom. Perhaps as we celebrate our freedom, we should remember to spend more time with the one who gave up His so that we could find ours. Abide. Remain. STAND.

Try this simple word, you’ve heard it said, it’s in your head,
But understand that this command makes a demand upon your time:
It wants your mind and if you see, then you will find it sets you free
To be who you were meant to be by hearing what the Master taught–
Though it is sought, it must be caught–
He brought the truth to give us freedom,
fought for us when we were beaten,
bought our hearts so he could free them…
Without him we would have died, but he renews our hearts inside,
And simply asks us to reside in this one word: Abide. Abide.

 

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

There’s No Caste System in THIS Kingdom: Meet The Great Equalizer

There are many caste systems in our world, and if the Bible is correct, none of them will matter in the end. “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:4-5 NIV)

We make many distinctions in this world; we place greater value on some people, places or things, often because of external qualities that attract us or catch our eye. We pay more for certain brands. We celebrate people because they have looks or money. We don’t really mix with people who are different than we are, and tend to avoid people we deem unsavory or “below us”.

There is a subtle caste system that starts in high school (or earlier) that operates in society and culture that elevates some people even as it marginalizes others. You know that system, with kids grouped together subtly as jocks or stoners, debaters or skaters, glee club or nerds. Hollywood has made movies for the last 30 years that capitalized on those distinctions and perpetuated them. Why? Because almost everyone can relate to being defined in the high school caste system…

caste high school

We judge/evaluate people with a look and a set of assumptions, categorizing them based on how they look, where they are, what they drive. In Acts 10:34 when Peter realized that the gospel had come to Gentiles, he said “I see now that God is no respecter of persons”. By this he meant that in the Lord’s eyes, there is no external value or social caste system. Jesus certainly emphasized this in his ministry by reaching out intentionally to the marginalized people in his world– to tax collectors and sinners, to the Samaritans, to women… He seemed to have a totally different standard of acceptance and therefore a totally different caste system than the Pharisees did.

We look at outward appearance, but the Lord, Samuel told Jesse, “looks on the heart.” Rich or poor, handsome/pretty or not, great or small, we are all the same in God’s eyes. For His children, mountains will be made low and all roads made straight. The good news: He will love us all and evaluate us not on merit but by Grace. The bad news: if you are depending on something external, there could still be a few bumps on the road; and if you ignore those, maybe an extremely deep pit…

Don’t slump too low in your valley;
don’t sit too high on your throne;
When the scrolls are unsealed and the Lord is revealed
We will all stand before Him, alone
His judgment’s impartial and perfect,
and will be — like His glory — eternal.
Our status or caste are the things that won’t last,
Since they’re always and only external.
Be careful what you call important,
and of what you rank high on the chart:
‘Cause it’s not how you look and it’s not how you cook,
Or if you wrote a book, or the money you took,
Or your rep on the streets, or in how many tweets,
Even if you were known, on a throne, or alone…
What God sees from the start is your innermost part,
It’s the motives and thoughts and intents of your heart!

It isn’t your cash, or how pretty your face is,
But knowing what heart-felt confession and Grace 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

Almost Famous: The Cosmic Guide to Being Known

What is known can either be as asset or a liability. “If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet that he ought to know; but if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3, NIV). For years I have called this my “Life Verse”, because I think it embodies the gap between what we see as important and what God thinks is important. Knowledge is one of our greatest barriers to learning something new. Thinking we know everything is a sure-fire way to keep from getting to know everything. What is known can keep us from finding the unknown…

By celebrating human thought and accomplishment, the world only scratches the surface of what’s important. Think about it: who are these celebrities, and what are the usual requirements for someone to become well-known or TMZ-worthy?

known and famous

As Billy Joel said in “Still Rock and Roll”, “Don’t you know about the new fashion, honey? All it takes are looks and a whole lot of money”. Having money is a great place to start, and projecting a sexy or attractive image certainly helps. Our culture celebrates actors, athletes, fashionistas, law-breakers, skin-flashers, rock stars and self-promoters. You see them on TV. The paparazzi follow them around. The tabloids make up stories about them, and they exhibit their flashy smiles and skimpy bikinis at your grocery checkout stand.

For all of those people, and for all who follow them, hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity: “You know nothing yet that you ought to know”. The tabloids at the check out stands in the Kingdom of heaven will have a whole different set of headlines. What you know is not nearly as important as WHO you know. The world offers its worldly wisdom and fleeting fame. Heaven’s celebrations have a totally different foundation.

Paul says that the person who loves God will be known because THEY LOVE GOD. When people talk about you, what do they say? Do they say “wow, that (Your Name Here) must really love God!” Or do they say something else? What are YOU noteworthy for? If you want to be famous, and if you want to be celebrated, then the Bible’s advice is simple: Love God. It’s a surefire way to accomplish on an eternal scale what so many people hunger for on an earthly one. Love God. Be known.

What things guide us and what things can aim us
At some way to be celebrated? Famous?
Is it looking hot or wearing fashion,
Or chasing things with money and with passion?
Being rich can work, if you have lots and lots of money:
Folks will flock to you just like the bees do to honey!
You’ll get some attention by showing some skin,
And finding some trouble that you can be in,
If it’s drugs, sex or cheating that you like to play with,
Or even the bad boys that you like to stay with,
You probably can’t do it all on your own,
So remember these things if you want to be known...
If the world’s definition seems shallow and lame,
There’s a whole different way to seek fortune and fame:
Stay humble. Love God with your heart and your head,
Disregard worldly things and believe what He said,
And you’ll find you’re inclined to be like Him, instead…
At the end of the day you will find you have grown
Not in fame or the game, but in just being KNOWN.

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

Hearts Getting Harder Have Nothing to do With Arteries

When you work with your hands, your skin can get toughened so much that you form callouses. Then it becomes tougher, harder, and less sensitive. The writer of Hebrews suggests that the same thing can happen to our hearts.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14, NIV)

Having faith in Jesus and being his follower does not make anyone perfect. Even after becoming Christians, it is possible to turn away from the living God and to be subject to a sinful, unbelieving heart. Anyone who has experienced genuine saving faith can never lose their salvation; however, it is possible to turn away from walking with God and to go our own direction. As Christians we do it all the time.

Here’s a familiar list for those of us who sin: We dabble in sin, we even do things over and over because we repeat favorite sins, we rationalize the impact of sin, and we do things “just this once” or “just a little bit”. Maybe it’s fun, maybe it feels good, or maybe it’s what we have always done; but our sinful nature will never truly give in to our Spiritual nature. All the while our hearts grow a little more calloused and our sinful nature hangs around, being opportunistic. Like Jason from the Halloween movies it keeps rising up to try to inflict death and destruction. I’ll grant that not every sin is progressive, but when we dabble in sin, our hearts can fall victim to evil. When it comes to sin, can you predict which one will lead to others?

hard hearts

The presence of our carnal nature insures that Christians will never be perfect in this life. The biggest mistakes I have ever made, I have made as a Christian. Repeat that: the biggest mistakes I have ever made, I have made as a Christian. I know, right? But this passage isn’t just talking about mistakes, it is describing selfish repetition of sin without repentance… It refers to daily stuff that weaves its way into our hearts and minds and won’t let go.

Sin can be the covetousness of Pinterest, the lure of porn, the hateful thoughts about some of those idiots out there, or even the smug self-righteousness of feeling more spiritual than others. Those things and more are woven into our lives every day, and if you think about it, the world actually offers us a continual bombardment of sin pelting our hearts with little barbs or subtle temptations.

As a result, our hearts can be hardened to sin, and we end up in places we never thought we’d go. We become calloused to sin, or (like the frog in the pot of tepid water on its way to boiling) comfortable with it a little at a time, taking small steps deeper into darkness… Generally, we don’t go straight from church to the evil empire, but sin has a cumulative effect, moving us away from the Truth one step at a time. How do we keep from believing those lies and taking those steps?

One of the answers is as close as your best Christian friend. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “encourage one another daily.” Who is it that encourages you? Who do you encourage? Someone you know is struggling with something in their life, and could use some kind words. Maybe they’ve wandered into sin, or accepted some of the enemy’s lies about their true value. Encourage them. You may just keep them from ending up with calloused hearts.

Sin bombards us every day as we are trying to make our way–
It sneaks up, peeks up, speaks up! Offers temptation, carnal relations,
Uses multi-media to offer sensations;
Sin calls us in a step at a time:
You’re thinking of sin while you’re reading this rhyme!
Watch that Pinterest, could be a sin test,
Calling you to look at something of interest,
Then you know you love it so that it makes you covet, though
You’d never admit that it made you kinda lit,
But your heart gets hit, and you sin a little bit…
That’s how it starts to harden your heart,
All those little malice’s building up callouses,
Whether that sin is New York or Dallas’s.
Fight against sin. Don’t let it win,
I’m telling you again don’t even let it in.
Encourage one another to do what’s right,
Gotta help a brother continue in the fight!
Give a little love with the message that you send,
And it will be enough to help you make it to the end.
It’s not fiction, it may cause friction,
But take ahold of Christ and keep your conviction.
There. I said it. So don’t you forget it;
Sin will try to win, but don’t. You. Let it.

 

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

Names Matter, or DO They? Does a Rose Smell Sweeter if you Call it Anastasia?

Names are interesting things. There seems to be a growing practice of giving babies unusual names, and one current online list of suggested baby names includes Zeus, Adecyn (really? Is anyone EVER going to spell that?), Kodiak, Merrigan, Primo, and Lorcan. I think that perhaps unusual names are given in the hope that the child will be deemed unique and special, and I get that. There might even be cases of someone trying to live up to a name, or standing out because of their name. But I would think that depending on character to make the names works better than depending on the names to make the character…

The Bible feels that way, too. Consider this: “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:9-11, NIV) This contains the promise that those who know the name of God will put their trust in Him, and those who seek Him will find him. (I do know for a fact that it’s also possible to know his name and NOT put trust in him; there are a lot of people out there who seem know God’s name, because they use it a LOT, but that’s probably a different blog sometime…)

Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but names matter too. Stop to consider the names by which we know the Lord. “I AM”. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Holy God. The Alpha and the Omega. The Living God. The LORD. The Creator of all things. Our Shield and Defender. Emmanuel (God with Us). Wonderful Counselor. Everlasting Father. The Holy Spirit. Comforter. Almighty God. Jesus. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. This partial list comes from Biblical writers who were inspired to describe God’s position, character, and personality through His name. David (a man who knew about trouble and needing refuge) says that if you know God’s name, you will put your trust in Him.

If that’s the case, why is it that so many people out there have not put their trust in God? Lots of reasons, but here are a few:

1) People expect a trouble-free life, and are disappointed in God when that doesn’t happen. Every rose has its thorns.

names

When we experience bad things in this life, it can be easy to blame God for pain and suffering. However, Jesus said “In this world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) David also knew that a refuge is not the absence of trouble, but rather a safe place within the troubles that beset us. In a world where trouble is coming and suffering is bound to happen, trusting the God who is called Shield, Defender, and Comforter makes sense.

2) People assume God is too distant or Majestic to know. Many are still looking “out there” in the cosmos for God, not realizing that He lived among us, shared our sorrows, and is here with us. God’s names speak of relationship, of intimacy, and of connection. He is the God of knowing and being known. How well do you know Him? How acquainted are you with the characteristics reflected in His name? Have you talked to him lately?

3) Many are unwilling to accept God in His proper place. David calls him the LORD. He is the mighty king. He is our Father. If we try to create God on our own terms, relegate him to genie status, or limit His authority in our lives, then we do not know Him properly. Only when we submit our will to His do we begin to discover the many facets of His nature, and the attributes that make Him who He is. Have you submitted your will to His?

4) A final reason why people don’t know God personally: they haven’t been properly introduced. Unfortunately, there are a lot people or things out there ascribed to God’s character that have nothing to do with Him at all. (Think: Westboro Baptist) Do you remember who introduced you to God? Can you think about places you have seen Him and felt His presence? Have you passionately pursued a relationship with your Father? It’s an awesome thing to do. And while you’re at it, remember to introduce some others. Once they know God’s name, they will be glad they do. There might be trouble coming.

NAMES THAT MATTER: GOD

Creator, sustainer, the ancient of days
The Spirit, the shepherd, the Truth and the way;
Mighty, Eternal, All-knowing, all-wise,
Maker of all in the seas and the skies;
Star-breather, speaker of glorious light,
Hanging the stars in the vastness of night…
Redeemer, defender, the unblemished lamb–
The healer, the bridegroom, the only “I AM”;
Powerful potentate, Spirit of Truth,
Lover of Abraham, Isaac, and Ruth;
Counselor, Comforter, Almighty King,
Caring, Creative, the Dove on the wing…
Advocate, Righteous, the One who is higher—
The Judge, the avenger, the refining fire;
Father, forgiver, the Word become man;
Light of the World who created the plan…
Holy of holies, the Greatest and least,
Divider of sins from the West to the East;
Loving and intimate, faithful and true,
Giving each day bread and mercy anew;
Holy elector, the God over all—
Protector of sparrows and men when they fall—
Author of History, Elohim, LORD:
Captain, Commander, the bright flaming sword;
Author and finisher, Lover and Friend:
The Alpha-Omega, beginning and End…

 

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

The Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, and the Churches in Jerusalem: What Do They Have in Common?

In Jerusalem the number one business is tourism. Hotels and buses are filled with pilgrims anxious to see and touch Holy sites like the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or the Wailing Wall. There are more buses running around Jerusalem than you will see anywhere this side of Branson, Missouri.

dome rock

It is truly impressive to see the devotion that pilgrims have to their sacred sites. Millions of people come each year to insert written prayers into the Western Wall, and to pray earnestly as close to the site of the Second Temple of Jerusalem as they can. It is thought that being closer to the Temple is being closer to the presence of God, thereby putting prayers almost directly to the ear of God, where they will surely be heard. Orthodox Jews and devoted Christians come to the wall in hopes that the Lord will surely answer prayers delivered so close to His house.

dome wall

There is an interior passage on the other side of the wall where a special group of women pray daily, bringing their petitions before God with continual supplication. Their reverent whispers echo softly in the secret passage, flying up through stone walls on butterfly wings to the heavens. The women pray fervently at the wall, perhaps with a prayer-book or Scripture to guide them, or perhaps with eyes closed as their lips move in silent supplication. Unlike the outer wall, this sacred space is reserved for women who are committed prayer warriors locked in spiritual battle with grief or longing or darkness…

dome women

Out and above the wall on Dome of the Rock, access is also limited. The Dome Mosque was built in the 700’s on TOP of the old Temple site, and is restricted these days to almost all “outsiders”. Only Muslims are allowed there, and there are guards at every entrance to keep tourists and non-Muslims from looking into the Dome. It is considered holy by the Muslim faith because it houses the rock where creation originally occurred; it is also where Mohammed allegedly rose to heaven with Gabriel, and where he went to pray (in a story very similar to the Transfiguration) with Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Westerners and Christians have been kept out of the Mosque for almost two decades, and Jews do not enter the Dome because it is a violation of Jewish law. There was an opening where a door was being repaired when we walked by the Dome, and the guard hurried out to move us away from the entrance lest we see inside.

dome guard

A group of women sat in the doorway and gave us dirty looks as we tried to catch a glimpse of what was inside, but alas! The religion of peace apparently doesn’t want outsiders. Their zealous devotion has created a shield around the Mosque…

At Churches and Christian holy sites, the devotion is also amazing. Pilgrims kiss the stones where Jesus may have been killed or prepared for burial, and the stations of the cross along the Via Dolorosa are venerated by the followers of Christ. People come from all over the world to lay prostrate, to reach and touch, and to experience the thrill of walking perhaps where Abraham or Jesus walked. The religious fervor and devotion of these pilgrims is touching and inspiring. (Interestingly, it was matched on our trip only by the curiosity and desire of celebrity-seekers who were trying to see Prince William up close!) But as I watched all of this devotion directed at holy sites and sacred places, I wondered if it was not perhaps the teeniest bit misdirected…

Matthew 28:5 “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

For me the truth in the Holy Land was not about the many amazing places we visited, or in the archaeological tells, or in the Church of the Nativity or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; I appreciate the tradition behind those sites and the fervor with which people respond to them. But for me, in thinking of the Living God who said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” I couldn’t find spiritual excitement in rocks, or walls, or Domes nearly as much as I found it in an empty space…

dome tomb

Reflection After the Wailing Wall Upon an Empty Space

Prayers are offered at the wall by Saints and Rabbis lifted high
In supplications large and small, regardless of the passers-by…
There a Rabbi bobs his head and there a tourist walks around,
While holy prayers are being said with passion on this holy ground.
Will Yahweh in His heaven hear as saints and Pilgrims seek this place?
And will they know that God came near, and offers peace? And love. And grace.
The Dome above the Temple rock is covered up with sheets of gold,
While guards at every entrance block all touring pilgrims, young and old…
And pilgrims come here every day to see these holy, sacred sites,
To look and see, to kneel and pray, to replicate religious rites!
When in Bethlehem we trod, in Churches, or in Galilee,
I wondered: does the living God reside in things that we can see?
We saw another wall of stone that opened to a burial room
And stood within it, all alone, Rejoicing in the empty tomb!

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