Incarnation: What Does It Mean? My Money is On “Like Father, Like Son!”

The whole notion of incarnation is somewhat mysterious and unfathomable. It literally means “in the flesh”, and refers to God taking on human form. Matthew 1:20-21 speaks about it like this: “an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” You take an infinite, all-powerful god and place him into a frail human body; he accepts limitations of time and space; and he walks upon the very earth he created! It sounds kinda like something out of Greek mythology, where the gods often came back and forth to earth. Those fanciful accounts are obvious fabrications, so why would Christians say that Jesus was God in human form? What evidence is there to suggest that the whole Jesus story is not just some first-century fabrication? Well, take a closer look at the incarnation and you’ll see it: Like Father, Like Son…

What, Exactly, Does the Bible Say About Incarnation?

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15, 18-20 NIV)

Christ’s resurrection (which we just celebrated on Easter) was important for so many reasons. 1) It AUTHENTICATED the incarnation, or who Jesus was: he was not just an itinerant rabbi, he was the incarnation of the invisible God. An image can ONLY reflect the original, and do exactly what the original does. Stand in front of a mirror and try it! Your image will do what you do. There are different concepts out there about incarnation, but none as simple and profound as Jesus. Several mystic and mythological religions utilize the concept of a god becoming man, but they are only cheap imitations of the REAL thing.

incarnation

If you want to determine whether or not physical representations of the Almighty are actually God, then investigate what they did and what they taught. Jesus of Nazareth was unique in his time, in his culture, in his approach, and in his impact. As “God with skin on”, Jesus showed us what the Father looks like. The incarnation means that Jesus is the visible image of a spiritual God, and you know what? We can be, too.

2) It CONFIRMED the possibility of eternal life. As the firstborn from the dead, Christ opened the very gates of hell and demonstrated a new possibility of triumph over death. If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christians are the greatest fools in history; there is no evidence of eternal life; and we should be, as Paul says, “of all men most miserable.”

3) The resurrection VALIDATED Christ’s position as the incarnation: he is the head of the church, the pure expression of the Father’s fullness in human form… God’s fullness burst forth in new life not only for Him but for us. He has supremacy in everything. He earned his position not by conquest, not by coercion, but by humility and sacrifice; and He represented the pure incarnation of the Father in human form.

4) Finally, it proved that he RECONCILED us to God: the wages of sin are death, and every human after Adam was held to account for their trespasses. The only hope seemed to be in keeping the law (at which all men failed) or having faith in an unlikely promise of redemption. Christ’s position enabled him to keep that promise (since his voluntary death paid our accounts in full). His incarnation demonstrated the result of being reconciled: LIFE! If Christ is in you, then the reconciled, eternal life you have can now reflect the very image of God.

Reflecting the Attributes of the Original

Here’s an illustration about how that works: I may not be a great tennis player, but what if the spirit and presence of Roger Federer could unzip my skin and step into me and guide my body with his will and understanding of the game? I would think differently, and I would certainly play tennis differently. Yeah there would be some limitations (because after all he’d have to play with MY body), but if Roger put my skin on, I’d be able to play tennis at a much higher level.

God calls us to be yielded to His authority, and to be inhabited by His Spirit. He wants to express His love and character through us just as He did with Jesus; in fact, history is FULL of examples of people who committed acts of courage, or selfless love because they were touched by the incarnation of God, and allowed His Spirit to literally guide them into new behaviors and new actions. Doesn’t that just fill your day with new possibilities? Raise your game. Smile at someone today as if God was smiling through you to them. Then do everything else as if He was, too. You know what? He is.

Incarnation or Fabrication?

God resides in grandeur on a universal scale;
His majesty is cosmic in its space:
God created galaxies beyond the crystal veil,
And used His power to put each one in place.
Some say God Almighty then became the Incarnation
To execute a grand redemptive plan;
Others say that such a tale is only fabrication,
And there’s no way that God became a man…
And yet there’s Jesus: humbly serving, healing, loving, warm–
Showing us that there’s another way:
Is it somehow possible that God in human form
Was born in Bethlehem on Christmas day?

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

Canon [Under] Fire: But Remember, the Canon Shoots Both Ways

The Canon is the official standard list of books that make up the Bible. People ask all the time, “why are those books in the Bible? Why aren’t other books in there as well?” People unfamiliar with Scripture are often critical of it without doing any research about where it came from or how reliable it is.
If you are curious, here are some facts about the Canon [under] Fire: How did the Bible Get to be the Bible? Read these with an unbiased mind, and decide for yourself if they have merit:

Perspired or Inspired?

First of all, the Bible stakes its claim as being the inspired Word of God. [The Lord said to Moses] “You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.” (Exodus 4:15-16, NIV)

One of the great questions regarding Scripture is, “Who wrote it, and therefore whose words is it speaking to us? According to Moses, who was reluctant to even represent God or to speak on His behalf, God was literally going to put the words into His mouth.
This type of process was reiterated by David in 2 Samuel 23:2 (who said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”), in Isaiah 59:21 (“my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips”), and in Jeremiah 1:9, when he said “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth”. Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16)  that Scripture is God’s word, literally “God-breathed” into His selected authors. When you consider that over 40 different authors combined to publish a cohesive revelation over 30 centuries’ span, it does make one pause and reflect…

canon

How Was the Canon Established?

This process of spiritual authorship and inspiration has come under fire within modern academia, and lots of people are skeptical about the Bible. They question its reliability, and whether or not the right books were included in its present form. Here are a few things to think about:
1. The current books of the Bible are known as the Canon, which literally means “a standard or measure”.

2. The OT canon was complete by 424 BC. That’s BC, folks. Jesus accepted its authenticity and its format, so I would be inclined to agree with Him.

3. The Hebrew People were fanatical about preserving their book without any variation or error, so much so that there was an entire profession (scribes) dedicated to copying it verbatim and preserving it for all time.

4. So, what about the New Testament? Isn’t is just put together from a bunch of sayings and fragments? How do we know it’s really what Jesus said? Consider this: Few scholars would dispute the integrity or textual purity of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”, which is validated by 10 extant originals, plus fragments. The NT is based on over 4,000 originals, with over 10,000 more partial copies or fragments. Why would anyone accept Caesar’s book but question the New Testament?

5. Although the primary list of books in the NT was essentially completed by early church Fathers around 170 AD (within a generation of authorship), there was still debate and discussion about the final Biblical list until around 380 AD when the Gelasian Decree was published. It is interesting to note: “Besides the personal writings of the Church Fathers from the early second to the mid-third century, there are no fewer than ten ancient catalogues of the New Testament books in existence. Of these ten, six are completely in accord with our present canon, while three of them omit only the book of Revelation, and one the book of Hebrews.” (from McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia, s.v . “Canon,” IV, 2.)

Why Recognize the Canon?

It is important to recognize the Bible as canon because it demands that it be treated as a whole, as one book; it proclaims the authority of Scripture and its usefulness to Christians; and “the process of canonization would be described, not as an arbitrary act of decision or political imposition, but as a Spirit-directed process of discernment and judgment.” (John Webster, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, “Canon”, page 99).

For my money, when you consider authorship, content, cohesion, the method, and the message it presents, it’s a LOT more difficult for someone to prove that the Bible is not the authentic Word of God than for me to maintain that it IS. Canon fire shoots both ways. If you want to argue that the Bible isn’t true, what evidence can you offer? Have you really investigated the Bible as a unique work of literature that has highly unusual qualifications? The Canon provides a foundation for the Bible as Scripture, as a book compiled by over 40 different authors over a period of 2000 years that tells one story and points to events that changed history. It’s worth your time to investigate that story before you reject it. (https://christianheritagefellowship.com/canonization-of-the-bible/#top)

Don’t Fire the Canon

Doubters say the Bible couldn’t be a holy book,
When most of them have never given it a deeper look.
There are many facts that speak to Scripture’s authenticity,
And validate its authorship, its source and historicity.
Its Books are criticized and doubted more than dinosaurs,
Yet it has more proof of life than Caesar’s “Gaelic Wars”!
The Canon was created with the greatest of intentions,
And has more facts supporting it than I have room to mention!
Those who shoot the canon with a critic’s fiery blaze
Would do well to remember that the Canon shoots both ways.

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
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Testament to the Truth: The Old Prepared the Way for the New

Minor Prophets not so Minor

You may have noticed names like Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi over the last few days as we have worked our way through the “Minor” Prophets. Perhaps you’ve also noticed a larger trend: over the last 40 days or so we have touched base with every book in the Old Testament, (which means if you have been following along, you have now read at least a part of every book in the entire Old Testament.) Way to GO!

The Old Testament is Amazing

This amazing and unique collection of writings stands alone among other ancient literature. It established a universally acknowledged standard of law, encouraged us to act with faith and vision, and it gave us glimpses of a Creator who is not only above us but also among us and for us. He is not a whimsical, capricious deity but the God who created us, cares about us, and came from beyond us.

In Isaiah 55:8 He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In Jeremiah 29:11 He says, “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.”

When talking to Moses, He identified Himself not as the Almighty God of the Universe, but as the personal God of relationship, saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6). In the Old Testament we have been encouraged to have courage (Deuteronomy 31:6), to seek and depend upon God’s presence (Judges 6), and to demonstrate stubborn love (the beautiful story of Ruth).

In the story of David we saw both triumph and tragedy, rejoicing and repentance. The Old Testament offers advice about good leadership (Exodus 18:19-21), how to live (Proverbs) and even offers some surprising insight about how to have a great sex life (Song of Solomon). It also points consistently to a Messiah who will come, not as a reigning Monarch but as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).

Between Malachi and Matthew

During the time between the Testaments, Israel suffered at the hands of invaders and despots who destroyed their temple and deported their leaders. In the midst of their devastation there were always glimpses of hope, and they were always a people who clung stubbornly to the idea that God would redeem them and love them through the coming Messiah. Even while predicting gloom and doom, men like Zephaniah and Malachi provided striking images of joy that included a tender lullaby or a frolicking calf… Working through the Old Testament provides a rich historical and spiritual backdrop that offers insight about the Coming King.

testament

A Journey You Can See in the Mirror

There is also the very curious parallel that Israel’s story has for every believer: their journey begins in faith; they are enslaved by the culture and values of a foreign land; they have to be rescued from “the fleshpots of Egypt” through miraculous means; even though they have experienced God’s presence they often long to return to their previous life; their old ways result in evil consequences, and they are motivated to repent and accept God’s authority once again. They are headed to the Promised Land, temporary sojourners whose reward is in front of them, influenced by God’s Spirit but dabbling in the flesh: imperfect, often unfaithful followers of the God who offers them refuge and promises them He will not leave them or forsake them. Sound familiar?

The Old Testament provided a foundation and set the stage for the New Testament, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the snapshots from Habakkuk, Hosea, Esther, Job… As we go forward, we will take a tour through every New Testament book as well, so that by the end of another 30 days or so, you will have read through the entire Bible. I hope you will see the message of hope and love in every book in the Bible, and that it will whet your appetite for more!

Two Testaments, One Story

Read the Bible. If you can, you’ll
Have a living owner’s manual,
Full of drama, wisdom, history,
Kings, adultery, even mystery;
Prophets bringing holy fire,
Psalms that lift your spirit higher;
The older Testament and the New
With literature designed for YOU,
Stories full of love and loss,
A hero lifted on a cross!
Sin required an awful price,
And Jesus made the sacrifice.
No matter what your time or place,
Your nationality or race,
God offers His Amazing Grace
To everyone who seeks His face.
At least, that’s what my Bible says…

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

Covenants, Old and New: Old Fashioned, or Cutting Edge?

Covenants are a more definitive way to describe contracts that have more substance or are of greater importance. It has been applied to politics, real estate law, and religion. Outside of those parameters we don’t seem to use it much. Surely covenants are old-fashioned, a thing of the past, right? The Bible is an ancient book, and it speaks about them over and over:

Where are Covenants in the Bible?


“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV).

“I will bless those who bless you [Abraham], and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3, NIV)
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25, NIV)

So, why talk about covenants?

If the Bible is clear about anything, it is that God is the God of covenants. He made one with Noah (Genesis 9:9), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2:24), Moses (Exodus 19:5), David (2 Samuel 7:28), and with us (1 Corinthians 11:25).

What Did the Covenants Mean?

It is highly noteworthy that the Lord operates this way, and it teaches us some important things about His character and personality because he does. Here are a few observations:

1. In the Egyptian world and culture (among many others), people and priests were constantly making gods in the image of things; these gods were extensions of the physical creation, portrayed in the images of created things. Out of nowhere, Moses rises up and proclaims a God who stands apart from things, who instead asserts that He will not abide any physical representation of Himself, and that He alone is the creator of man, who is made in His OWN very image. As the creator, He operates in the context of relationships, and calls mankind to walk with Him in faith. He created a covenant to define and extend His relationship with fallen man, and to provide context about how sinful man could still engage with a Holy creator.

covenants

2. While it may seem parochial and odd to us that God chose the Hebrew people, and that He gave the revelation about Himself to a chosen few, it was never His intent to limit that revelation or relationship to Israel. In Genesis 12 he told Abram the reason he had called him: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God extends covenants in order to extend blessing, a process that is still happening today. The Creator loves and wants to bless those whom He created in His image. Which brings us to

What Do Covenants Have to Do with Us?


3. Covenants are not some ancient ritual that faded into the distant past. Jesus intentionally connected his life and work to God’s covenants. The new covenant he described to his disciples is still alive and powerful today, and is celebrated in every mass and every Lord’s Supper around the world. Even as we celebrate it, remember that it is not ritual and it is not legalistic, but it is an act of spiritual devotion. The fact that it calls so many people into community is evidence of its spiritual reality.

As Hebrews 8:10 says, “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” These three observations bring to mind three questions: How’s your relationship with your Creator? Who is God blessing through you? How full of God’s character and personality is your heart? Those might be great questions to ask yourself the next time you participate in the Lord’s Supper. Or, yeah, every day.

Covenants Old and New

Take a contract, fix a seal to show the world that it is real;
In the Garden, from the flood, the covenants were sealed with blood
That bound participants fast and firm to all prerequisites and terms.
Make each contract hard and fast; Make it binding, make it last.
This New Covenant, finally, will pay the Garden’s penalty:
“This is my body, take and eat”: this covenant is bittersweet;
“This my blood for you was shed–for you I died, for you I bled”–
Creating a covenant from the start that touches every human heart.
This new covenant was designed with you and all your friends in mind;
When Justice makes its cruel demand,
Within this covenant take your stand:
Here upon sin’s battlefield, Christ has offered us His shield!
God’s good Grace has been revealed;
By his stripes we have been healed,
And by His blood we have been sealed.

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

Frolic Like Well-Fed Calves! A Surprising Image From the Midst of Destruction

An Unusual Message From the Messenger

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty… “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” (Malachi 3:1; 4:1-2, NIV; Day 40 of working through the Bible)

frolic

Malachi foresaw a messenger who prepared the way of the Lord, and he saw the Lord standing in the temple as the messenger of the covenant. Knowing “the rest of the story”, we know this was fulfilled by John the Baptist preparing the way and Jesus coming to earth to fulfill the covenant and to initiate a new one.

An Attitude That’s in Short Supply


Malachi also saw the day of the Lord coming like a furnace, burning away wood, hay and stubble, destroying “the arrogant and the evildoer”. He says it will leave only those who revere the name of the Lord. Hmmm… Revere means to honor, to treat with deep respect. What do you revere? For what do you have reverence? Reverence is in pretty short supply these days. Finding reverence in private takes concentration and work, and finding it in public settings is extremely uncommon. (Maybe people think that being reverent will make things too dull, and take all the fun out of life…)

Malachi says that an arrogant society, focused on selfish rights and every possible petty slight does not revere much except itself. In the day of the Lord, the proud and selfish will be in for a rude awakening, caught in the light and energy of God in such a way that all of the self-consumed will BE consumed.

The Surprising Result of Reverence

Those who revere God, however, will find healing in His light, and will see the dawn of a new day. They will “frolic like well-fed calves”. This is yet another surprising image springing out of the pages of judgment. Have you ever seen calves frolic? They hop, they bounce, and they gambol, full of random joy that can’t be contained. They are so excited they can’t stand still, and their playful attitude is contagious. True reverence doesn’t make things dull. It brings JOY! So you have two assignments today: Revere God. Frolic!

The Dance of Reverence

Have you ever watched the frolic of calves,
Who bounce with joy, and not by halves?
Who gambol and race at the merest chance,
Expressing delight in an awkward dance?
Have you ever seen the things they do?
Have you ever felt like frolicking, too?
Malachi said that's the way
God's children will frolic, dance and play--
When the sun of righteousness starts to blaze,
And the Kingdom of Heaven spreads its rays
As the world abounds with astounding praise.
May you worship and frolic for all of your days...

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

Hard Hearts May Not Be Easily Broken, But They’ll Never Change the World

The brunt of human experience often wounds us, piercing our hearts and causing us to cover them with scar tissue that develops into hardened armor. As Paul Simon once put it, “I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island…And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.” With Hard hearts we can become the Spiritual Flintstones, blocking not only pain but empathy; we become desensitized to God and what He’s about, even to the point of being proud of our emotional toughness. Apparently this dynamic existed in Zechariah’s day, and the Lord called him to preach about it.

Shell Games

hard hearts

“And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint…” (Zechariah 7:8-12, NIV)

The Lord tells us through Zechariah to “Show mercy and compassion to one another…” These verses outline some universal values that God seems to think are important. And just from driving around in Dallas traffic, I’d have to say that mercy and compassion are in pretty short supply. (And that’s just in MY car; from the way many others drive, I don’t think there’s much mercy or compassion radiating from THEIR cars, either! Hard hearts are everywhere!) The Lord encourages us to be just, to drive considerately, to help those who are less fortunate, and to refrain from plotting evil against each other. These seem like pretty simple things to do, but how well do we do them? Encountering justice and consideration in our culture is an exception rather than the rule.

What Happens When Hearts are Hardened?

Besides encouraging us to pay attention to the Lord’s values, Zechariah also says there are results that come from NOT paying attention, from stubbornly turning our backs on God, and for refusing to listen to Him: our hearts can become as hard as flint. What do you suppose he meant by that? Hardened hearts become shielded from intimacy and they block themselves off from being vulnerable or open. Hard hearts have no mercy or compassion, no love, and no life. It makes sense that if God is love, and we shield ourselves from Him, then it follows that our hearts will not reflect His attributes and character.

But stop for a minute and look at that another way: if you want to have a strong, vibrant, living heart, then pay attention to God; get face to face with Him; be teachable; and listen for His truth. Discover what His values are and try to live by them. The fastest and surest way to change the culture around you is to change the one within you. Change your heart, and change the world…

Ain’t no Feeling in Those Hard Hearts

Administer true justice, and show mercy to your brother;
Treat others with respect, and have compassion towards each other.
If you persist with selfish pride to make it on your own,
Don’t be surprised to find your hardened heart has turned to stone.
A hardened heart, the Bible says, is something you can CHOOSE:
Just don’t forget it may be more than feelings that you lose.

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

Advice is Easy to Give. Great Leaders Practice What they Preach

David had gotten to the place when knew his time on earth was short, and in this passage he gave Solomon a piece of advice about how to be a great leader:

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV)

advice

David didn’t just give Solomon some pretty good advice here. What he said is worth considering and applying by all leaders everywhere. It is full of eternal, life-changing principles. When you break it down, you’ll see what I mean.

1) David starts by reminding Solomon that he is his son. He is presuming upon their relationship, and he makes this statement because Solomon falls under David’s paternal authority. Roles are important in life. David understands that part of a father’s job is to impart advice, to offer wisdom and to tell it like it is—so he does. In this case, David is Solomon’s biological father, but that’s not mandatory in mentor relationships. Every one of us is currently involved in relationships where we provide guidance or leadership, or where we need to LISTEN TO guidance or counsel. Advise well. Listen well.

2) He tells Solomon to acknowledge “the God of your father”, which means David was offering his OWN relationship with God as a baseline for Solomon. Tell, me, would you present YOUR relationship with God as the template for your children? For your friends? David failed in several very public ways, and his life in was not exactly a template for proper behavior, but he did love the Lord and follow Him in spite of his own failings and mistakes… I think it’s telling that David is confident enough in his relationship with God that he can tell his son to follow it.

3) He doesn’t just tell Solomon to acknowledge God, he tells him to serve the Lord “with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” Would you tell your kids to do that? Do you DO that? Great leadership involves more than giving advice, it comes from actually living out the principles it proclaims.

4) He reminds Solomon that the Lord knows every heart, and understands every human desire and motive; if that doesn’t give you pause for reflection, I’m not sure what will. (To bring that closer to home, the Lord knows YOUR heart, and He is aware of YOUR every motive. It is not so much my blatant, public sin that I worry about, but my private inner ones…) David advises Solomon that God’s sovereignty and omniscience matter, and that we should conduct ourselves with an awareness of what that means in our life and in our relationships.

5) He spells out the choices in black and white. If we seek God, we will find him; but if we forsake Him, He will reject us. And oh yeah, He will reject us “forever”. We have choices, and our actions have consequences. Choose wisely.

Hard-Earned Advice

David’s reign was ending; Solomon’s had just begun,
And David offered wise advice to Solomon, his son:
“Acknowledge God the way I do, and love Him from the start;
Serve Him with a willing mind, and seek Him with all your heart.
The Lord knows every motive, every thought within your mind–
So don’t play games with Him. Be honest. Seek Him, and you’ll find…
If you forsake His wisdom as you sit upon your throne,
Then he’ll reject you utterly, and you will be alone.
You’ll find that it’s much harder, then, to govern on your own…”

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

Enough Isn’t Always Enough. If That’s True for You, Maybe You Need a Shift in Priorities

Perhaps the Rolling Stones were describing some of us when they said, “I can’t get no satisfaction”. All of us spend at least some of our time trying to get enough, whether it’s money or control or food or pleasure… But what do you do when having enough doesn’t satisfy? According to the Stones, you could try and try and try but still come up short.  And if you read your Bible, apparently Mick Jagger wasn’t the first one to say, “I can’t get no”, because Haggai said something very similar 3000 years ago:

enough

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:5-6, NIV)

When is Enough, Enough?

In 21st century America, we live in perhaps the most materialistic society in human history. We are avid money-makers and consumers. Most of our dreams of success picture us not in service to others, but surrounded by opulence and wealth. So what’s the big deal? Isn’t that the way we ought to live? Peter Lord said, “What you really believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.” And if we are honest, what we really care about most is evident by what we spend our time pursuing. In our culture, it’s “normal” to want to get ahead, to buy a nicer car and a bigger house. Like the Rolling Stones, we can’t get no satisfaction. We’ve tried. And we’ve tried… But it’s not enough.

Often, the end justifies the means, and we will fudge on values and family time to chase a “better life”. Frankly, no matter how we spin it as necessary, or normal, or even as a sign of Blessing, it’s really just all about the Benjamins; we are a culture consumed with material things. We have so much, but it’s never enough.

First Things First?

Haggai’s message was preached to people just like us. They were caught up in earning, eating and drinking. Yet they never had enough. They were not satisfied or content, and their plentiful harvests and full purses could not ever give them what they really needed.
I know Jesus said it to his disciples—and to us—but perhaps he was also thinking of Haggai’s audience when he said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).

If you’re like me, you probably have a lot of stuff. And while stuff is not evil in itself, if you have some vague discontent that floats around the back of your mind when you can’t sleep, perhaps there’s a reason. Perhaps “stuff” is not sufficient to complete us or make us whole. Based on Haggai’s sermon, if you are not satisfied, maybe you are seeking the wrong things first. Your purse may not be the only thing that has holes that need to be filled.

I Can’t Get No

If you feel that money is a sign of being blessed,
Then stop and give the motives of your heart a little test:
Are you truly satisfied with just the things you need,
Or is it possible that you could have a little greed?
Beware of having too much love for money, things, or stuff,
Since they can never satisfy, or offer you enough.
Seek God’s kingdom first, and let your heart with Him be thrilled,
Then check your purse, and see that all the holes it had are filled.

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

Zephaniah says That You are the Delight of the Almighty God! Believe It!

There is a song your Creator is singing, and it is not the dirge of judgment or the chant of condemnation, it is the Lullaby of Delight. Often we are so focused on God’s righteousness and authority that we tend to forget His love. Zephaniah reflects on those attributes and reminds us that God is not limited to who we sometimes think He is…

Zephaniah

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV) Sometimes is it really nice to stop explaining the Bible or analyzing it just to bask for a while in one of its surprising images. Sometimes the emotional resonance outweighs the scholarly reflection.

A Warrior’s Love Song?

Look at this picture of the Lord in Zephaniah. God (the LORD, the Mighty Warrior) is WITH me, he takes great DELIGHT in me, and he REJOICES over me with singing. The Almighty God of the Universe is not just infinitely powerful, He is infinitely loving. In the middle of a book in which Zephaniah predicts death and destruction, he also offers us a depiction of delight.

The Lord is pictured here as singing over us, and the image is maternal and compassionate. While God is described as a mighty warrior, he is also at once loving and kind. Like a nesting bird protecting its fledglings, like a young mother singing a lullaby to her infant, the Lord holds us with tender love. He is not the God of vengeance who merely wants to rebuke us; He is the loving God who takes great delight in us.

His delight added the final touches to his creation, made perfectly to be our home until sin corrupted it. He delighted in walking with Adam in the garden. His delight brought the Ark to dry land; it was found in the bulrushes of the Nile and in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem. God’s delight sang to us in the Psalms, and invited us into conjugal bliss in Solomon’s Song. It called to us in the prophets and spoke lovingly to us across centuries before technology or media existed. The Lord’s delight in you was demonstrated on the cross with a stubborn love that would not let you go. The Rabbi who spoke of love and meekness became a mighty warrior who did not quit until his work was finished. Zephaniah says that the mighty warrior sings a lullaby over you.

Are You Feeling What Zephaniah Felt?

This verse has been put into a praise song that says, “Quiet me with your holy love and rejoice over me with singing.” When is the last time your prayer to God simply asked Him to sing over you? When have you listened? Can you hear it, amidst the bustle of every day, the loving voice of a singing God? He bathes you in the light of a new day; he caresses you with gentle breezes… Bask in that for a moment. Climb up into God’s lap and sit for a spell. Can you feel surrounded and protected by His presence? Do you feel His smile lighting the room because you are there?

At the close of your day, do you sense Him drawing near? Listen to his song as it comforts you and surrounds you with joyful affection. Can you hear it, full of love and affirmation? Can you fall asleep each night secure in the Father’s lullaby? Would your life change if you saw yourself as God sees you? What if you saw yourself as delightful and loveable? According to Zephaniah, you are. God takes DELIGHT in you! Next time you look in the mirror, try to see yourself the way God sees you; then smile back at God’s precious child and rejoice!

Lullaby of Love

I created you to love, to have you love Me back,
Allowing you a will, a heart– a voice!
My righteous love provided you whatever you might lack,
While Good and Evil offered you a choice…

I remember walking in the garden hand in hand,
Enjoying perfect love before the Fall;
Sin distorted everything, and Justice now commands
That Judgment be applied to one and all.

Though the world has fallen, and the garden has grown wild,
And pangs of consequence expand the night,
You will always be my joy, my treasure, and my child,
And in you I will always take Delight.

If you listen closely, you will hear amidst the noise,
A Father’s song of love is breaking through,
Calling you to leave your worldly, temporary toys!
Listen: I am singing over you.

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

Amazed By the Grandeur of the Universe? What if it Had a Creator?

I was standing outside looking at the stars the other night, and it hit me again that the universe is utterly amazing. I hope I am never so jaded that I fail to be amazed by the world around me. Looking up at the infinite expanse of space, I wondered: is God the Creator of all of this, or just a figment of our imagination? Is it all made by God, or is God all made up? Is there a God who really does things?

The Bible contends that God exists, and that He is active in our universe. “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV) This sentence is something that has confounded skeptics and caused debates. Does God do amazing things?

Is God really even out there? Believers say He is. The academic intellectual doubts it. Atheists scoff at the notion. What do you think? Have you ever seen God work, or felt His presence?

Amazed or Not?

Has God really ever done anything in our midst that we would not believe, even if we were told? It is easy to look the world around us and fail to see God. He doesn’t appear on command, and you can’t detect Him with your senses. On the one hand, there are those who say that the only acceptable evidence is purely empirical, based on what we can observe and analyze.

Just apply the scientific method to all that we see, and to our existence: according to science, we came from random explosions in an expanding universe that somehow interacted to synthesize amino proteins which came together to form DNA. It’s all explainable using quantum physics and scientific analysis; you just have to allow enough time for that random process to work and evolve.

amazed

On the other hand, believers say God created the universe with a design and a plan.

On the one hand, you can try to talk to God, but you’ll receive no direct answer, and hear no vocal response. On the other hand, people speak and listen to God with surety every day.

On the one hand, we live in a world where there is cause and effect, and the things that happen can all be explained; on the other hand, people see the hand of God at work. On one hand, technology is altering the way we get information, and people are living in tweets and sound bites, gravitating away from reflection and contemplation. Culture resides in the here and now, not the dusty past… On the other hand, God revealed himself through the Word, and put his wisdom and his story into a book that has to be explored and meditated upon.

Seems kinda backward of God, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t he have waited to come when He could have made the news? Wouldn’t technology have provided a better communications base than the Bible? The intellectuals of this world shoot holes in faith, and many people could say they have not really seen God. Yet Habakkuk claims that God will do something utterly amazing, which “you would not believe, even if you were told.”

“I Wouldn’t Believe it if You Told Me”

You know what? Habakkuk’s prophecy came true. God did just that. He sent his Son to earth as a fragile infant. Jesus of Nazareth said things no one had ever said, and lived as no one else had ever lived. His love and humility astounded his followers and confounded the wise. He went to the cross, in the utterly amazing story of redemption. Habakkuk was right. God did something “in your days” that no one saw coming, even though they had been told about it… It changed the nations, reshaped history, and fulfilled prophecy from thousands of years before.

God not only made everything, but God showed up. He gave us his Word, and He gave us his Son. You’ve now been told; whether you believe it or not, and whether you choose to be amazed by it is totally up to you. (By the way, if you believe it, make sure you tell somebody else about it today! They might be amazed, too!)

The Amazing God

Habakkuk said that God would do some things among the nations
Which would be quite historical, and cause some big sensations.
He said that folks would look upon God’s work and be amazed,
Yet there some who still observe and really are not fazed.
They say that God is not at work, and they can’t really see
That God has ever been at work to alter history…
They might just note that calendars are dated from the birth
Of a baby from Judea who changed everything on earth.
Read his teaching, analyze his life, and then observe
That he came not to rule the world, but to ransom it, and serve.
Habakkuk said we’d be amazed at all that God could do:
Who knew that in a baby, his prediction would come true?
I’ve been amazed by Jesus; tell me, scientist, have you?

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