Sinners Seem to Throw All the Best Parties. Should We Go?

“Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And the scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32, NIV)

What’s so Bad About Tax Collecting?

When Jesus called Levi the tax collector (known to us as Matthew), he sent ripples of social indignation through the synagogue. It was a dramatic cultural statement about values, righteousness, and the gospel. Tax collectors were a totally unacceptable social group in Judea. Most folks viewed them as turncoats who collaborated with an occupying enemy. Their job basically amounted to legal extortion on behalf of Rome, and they made lots of money. Tax Collectors lived comfortably in large, opulent homes with richly dyed fabrics and plenty of first century bling. (Think “The Godfather” meets “Scarface” in terms of style and general social acceptance…)

Because their wealth was built on Roman oppression, they were despised by their fellow Hebrews as traitors and criminals. I would imagine that as they sat by the pool in their private courtyards, the tax collectors took solace in the creature comforts their lifestyle provided (even though they weren’t welcome at church anymore.) When Jesus called Levi from the tax collector’s booth at the city gate, it was a radical move. It was one thing to call fishermen, or John’s disciples, but it was unthinkable to good Jewish citizens that Jesus would call someone like Levi. To make it even worse, Levi went and threw a big party for Jesus at his place!

sinners party

He invited his friends—the OTHER tax collectors and their girlfriends, and Jesus ACTUALLY WENT. Ok Christians, here’s a couple of things to chew on. How many friends do you have who would even qualify to go to this kind of party? If most of us Christians threw a party, wouldn’t it be too lame for any non-believer to want to attend?

What Kind of Party Do Sinners Want to Go To?

And of course the big question: when was the last time you threw a party at your house for sinners? A party that had other folks at church questioning your motives and behavior? There’s an Australian church called “Matthew’s Party” that reaches out to street people. I love their name and their mission. Tell me: Is their mission any different than ours? Jesus said, “It is not the righteous but the sinners who need to be called to repentance.” Is your life so insulated among the righteous that you’d have a hard time coming up with a good guest list of sinners who needed to come? Maybe it’s time to throw a party!

Sinners Party

Matthew threw a party and invited folks he knew;
According to the Pharisees, these friends were less than winners.
So, they threw shade at Jesus there, and his disciples too,
Criticizing them for hanging out with such big sinners.
Jesus said, I’m here because the sinners need me most;
Besides, I like this party and I really love the host.
You should be glad I’m here instead of being mad I went;
I came to call the sinners–not the righteous–to repent.

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

Trouble In This World is Inevitable. Refuge is Optional

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.” (Psalm 46:1-3, NKJV)

The people of God were no strangers to trouble. From slavery in Egypt to captivity in Babylon they endured hardship and trouble of  Biblical proportions. Granted, by ignoring the prophets and chasing after idols they brought much of it upon themselves, but the children of Israel have spent a lot of time dealing with oppression, disaster, and tragedy. This Psalm provides some clues about how they have been able to deal with such things.

Do Great Circumstances Equal Blessing?

First, it presupposes that there WILL be trouble. It is not a prosperity gospel, and does not assume that God’s blessing is in the ABSENCE of trouble: it takes comfort from God’s presence in the MIDST of trouble. I think many of us equate God’s blessing with ease and material comfort, and our world can be shattered by tragedy because when bad things happen we question God, or even blame Him for what happened. While God often reveals His grace and goodness during hard times, trying to find the human logic behind tragedy can be a fruitless exercise. We may not ever see all ends, or find a reason for why something bad happened. We can, however, always find help when it does.

trouble

The Psalmist assumes that trouble will come, and is soothed by the fact that God provides strength and a place of spiritual refuge in the midst of physical tragedy. When trouble comes, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to turn TOWARDS the Father rather than AWAY from him? It may just be that blessing is not found in comfort, but in HE HIMSELF.

Trouble, Tragedy, and Refuge

The Psalmist not only finds comfort in God’s presence, he also finds courage. No matter what calamity falls upon him, he is able to react with confidence that God is with him and will provide help. Please don’t misunderstand this. This Psalm does not minimize tragedy or try to cover it with platitudes. It merely says that when bad things happen to you (and they will), find strength and help in God. Though the physical world fail and fall, the spiritual world abides. When there is no other refuge, there is ONE refuge…When the world gives you reasons to be afraid, the Lord gives you a reason not to fear. Selah.

When Trouble Comes

Mountains fall to troubled seas, the very earth will shake;
But shouldn’t blessings come my way? There must be some mistake!
Troubles are inevitable, my child, as you can see:
My blessing is not stuff or things; the blessing, child, is ME.
When calamity’s bony finger stretches out its length
My God is my ever-present help, my refuge, and my strength.

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

If Only I Won the Lottery, that Would Solve All my Problems, Right? Think Again

Moses was tending sheep out in a remote area when he saw a curious sight. He may not have realized he had just won the theological lottery, but he ended up having a conversation that changed his life.

“Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV). Have you ever stopped to wonder God introduced himself to Moses as ” I AM”? It’s a fascinating descriptor, but what exactly did God mean by that?

If Only

Russ Massey, my Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader in Conroe during the 90’s, shared a situation that many of us could relate to. The Texas State lottery had begun, and he said that a couple of times he and his wife had fantasized about winning the lottery… No big deal, but they thought about all the good ways they could use the money (starting with a nice tithe back to God, of course). Nancy and I have done the same thing—played the “if only” game… Wouldn’t it be great if we won the lottery? If only we won the lottery, then life would be great!

lottery winners

If only we had that money, we could pay off the kids’ mortgages, set up some education funds for grandchildren, and generally provide many, many benefits for those close to us. (And yes, some of those benefits might come our way as well…) We could retire easily, we could have things, we could travel, and we would be set. The Lottery could solve all of our problems… “If only” seems like a pretty innocent exercise, one that most of us have played from time to time. But as Russ shared that scenario with us, he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said we play that game and fantasize about something like that for many reasons, not just winning the lottery.

If only I got that promotion, if only we lived in a different neighborhood, if only my spouse were a better person, THEN life would be better. Russ said, “Isn’t it strange that we never put God in that blank after “if only”? What if we said, “If only GOD,”? Would life be better then? He went on to say that when we play the “if only ______” game, then whatever we use to fill in the blank, that is god to us. We may not consciously worship it, but it is. Kinda makes you stop and think about what we put into that blank and why.

A Sneaky Form of Idolatry

Russ finished his thoughts by connecting some important dots. God called himself “I AM”, which fits exactly into the “if only” game. We say, “Lord, if only I had what I need.” God says, “I AM” what you need. “Lord, if only I felt loved…” I AM love. “Lord, if only I knew the way…” I AM the way. “Lord, if only I had more of this or that…” I AM all you need.

The logic behind Russ’s conclusion is perfect. When we try to plug temporal things into our lives to complete ourselves, we stay incomplete. Moses objected to accepting God’s call because he felt unworthy. As he told God how he (a murderer and a fugitive) was not adequate or willing to lead, God understood. In fact, the Lord had already countered all of Moses’ objections when He told him His Name. Can’t speak well? I AM going to provide for that. Afraid of being ill-equipped? I AM sufficient.

What about you? What are your objections to serving God with all of your heart and soul? Lord, work and the kids keep me busy; just wait until I retire! Lord, if only I were a better speaker… If only I had more time… If only I were better prepared! God would say to you the very thing He said to Moses: “Whatever you need… I AM.” Don’t wait on the lottery. Just Go.

I Will Because I AM

Moses saw a burning flame and asked the Lord about His name:
"I AM", said God, but Moses asked if he was worthy for the task.
Speaking, he objected to the work that God expected:
"Oh Lord, he said, I'm just a man with halting speech! Without a plan!"
And God said, "Whatever you need, I AM."
See, Moses didn't calculate how much the great I Am was great!
He focused on his lack of skill, but God told him to say, "I will"!
"When people grumble or resent you, tell them that I AM has sent you!
If people say you are a sham, tell them that you serve I AM!"
Moses learned God's mystery. The rest, of course, is history.

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

Relationships Matter: When the God of Relationships Calls You, Answer the Phone!

What is life if not a network of relationships? Oscar Thompson, my Evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, used to ask his classes, “What is the most important word in the English language? Students would answer, “love” or “money”, or “God”, and Oscar would say, “Nope. None of those words had any meaning without the word I am thinking of: RELATIONSHIP.”

Sometimes relationships come out of nowhere to change our lives. Genesis records an instance where this was true. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God… (Exodus 3:5-6, NIV)

relationships

The God of Relationships

I have always thought that the way God introduced himself to Moses was revealing, which makes good sense because He is and has always been the God of revelation. In this case, He also identifies Himself as the God of relationships — the God of Moses’ father, and of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible is the story of how God has revealed Himself to man, and how He has engaged in relationships with us. Here in Exodus He revealed himself to Moses when Moses least expected it. Does He still reveal himself to us? On this earth, we encounter the Lord on his terms, not ours. Moses grew up in a land with many gods, so it had to be somewhat of a shock to him to encounter the One True God.

If you think of it, however, we are all in Moses’ sandals, and some point we are all called to step out of them. We have all grown up surrounded and tempted by many gods—celebrities, material things, success, ego, power, lust—and the real question is, have you ever met the One True God? Do you know who He is?

Did God Create Us, or Did We Create Him?

To that end, the introduction to Buell Kazee’s Faith is the Victory contains one of the greatest statements about God I have ever read: “God creates man in his image, and man creates God in his image. It depends on who is doing the creating as to what kind of being we have in either case. Man, left to himself, will always have a god, and that god will always be like man himself. Because man is confused, he will make for himself many gods, but they will all be like himself. The conflict of the world is between the One God, who arises from beyond man’s realm of knowledge, and the many gods which he has created out of his own heart.” (Faith is the Victory, Intro, page 9)

This world is full of many gods (with a small “g”), man-made idols that people may not even realize they worship. When God reveals Himself, it is surprising to most folks that there is actually only one God, and that He is offering them a choice.

The way God identified himself to Moses is significant. He didn’t say to Moses, “I am the great cosmic all-powerful God of the universe.” He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” In essence, he was telling Moses: “I am the God who loves people. I am the God of relationships. You can know me personally, just as your forefathers did. Look at the people who have walked with me, and you will see who I am and what I do. Look for reflections of my character in those who have no earthly means to possess it otherwise. Accept my revelation of who I am, and you can walk with me just as they did. Ignore the many meaningless gods that clamor for your attention, and walk with me.”

Stop and take a look around your life. There are indeed still meaningless gods who clamor for your attention. Somewhere amidst all the material things, the celebrities, the agendas, the politics, the cell phones, the incessant ads, the sports, and the intrusive pervasive media, the God of relationships is revealing Himself to you. Don’t miss Him.

The God Who Is

In Egypt, gods were everywhere–
An idol here, a temple there–
Worshipping idols was the style:
They worshipped cats! The Sun! The Nile!
But Moses in the desert ran
Into the God who said, “I AM”.
“I am the God of Abraham–
Isaac and Jacob, too.”
Moses didn’t doubt and scoff;
He stopped and took his sandals off;
He knew this was a holy place
And so he stopped, and hid his face.
This relationship with God was new:
It gave him more to dare, and do–
Changed more than how he wore his shoes–
Changed everything that Moses knew,
His life, his plans, his point of view!
If God introduced Himself to YOU,
Tell me, then, what YOU would do:

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

Covenant Keeping is Serious Business; Don’t Make One Unless You Mean It

In the old days, when people made covenants they would sometimes sacrifice an animal and walk between the two halves of its carcass to signify how important the agreement was. The act implied, “May this happen to us if we break this covenant.” It was a graphic reminder of the importance of their vow to one another, and it indicated that covenants should be taken seriously. The Prophet Jeremiah probably had this life-and-death image in his mind when he gave this revelation about God’s future plans for Israel.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

covenant

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, NIV)

The Pattern of Covenants

In the Biblical narrative, God has consistently reached out to mankind by offering covenants. In the Old Testament He made one with Adam, with Noah, Abraham and his offspring, Moses, and David. In these covenants He declared his intention to bless all of mankind, and He engaged in an intimate relationship with His people. Lest you think of covenants as an old, dusty practice that went out of style in the Christian era, consider this: In the New Testament, Jesus continued the covenantal practice with his disciples: “after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Even if you follow Jesus and major in New Testament, you are a covenant follower, too.

The Bible consistently affirms the principle of the covenant by comparing our relationship with God to a marriage. Even though God offered himself as a husband, his spouse (Israel) repeatedly (and consistently) broke their marriage vows and went off on their own, pursuing false gods and worthless idols. How could they DO such a thing? God delivered them from slavery and death, yet they cast him aside to chase other delights?? Today, we assume that’s all in the past, because WE don’t have graven images or little shrines in our houses where we blatantly worship other gods.

The Problem With Idols

But before you feel too smug, stop right there! There are idols in your life, other things that sometimes take God’s place in your priorities or in your heart. We are possessive about the wrong things. You may covet a better home or car. You might worship money or security. You may present yourself to the altar of self-righteousness. You could be depending on chemicals to make yourself feel better, or comfort food, or pornography, or Pinterest. (yeah, I said it, Pinterest could be an idol)

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis made this point when he said, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

If the Lord loves you as a bridegroom loves His bride, beware lest you abandon your marriage vows for something so fleeting or temporary. He takes covenants seriously. The good news is that the Lord has promised to make us children of the new covenant, and He will write His law in our minds and in our hearts. And He is possessive in the RIGHT way. As the newlywed Husband who is smitten with his bride, God wants us to covet Him just as much as He covets us. We will be HIS, and He will be OURS. Covet that. Covenant that.

Your Covenant

A covenant is serious stuff, defining where and how
Two parties will agree to act; it is a solemn vow.
In ancient times, agreements would be sealed by sacrifice;
Before they broke a covenant, both parties would think twice.
Agreements based on life itself had mortal consequences,
So if you broke the terms, you’d taken leave of all your senses!
Have you ever stopped to think, in all you say and do,
That Jesus gave his life to make a covenant with 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

Scripture: It’s More Than a Collection of Writings. It’s the Right Tool for the Job

What if I told you that there was a tool that will help you be more profitable and do more good? Would you use it? There is such a tool, and it is probably as close as your bookshelf. It’s a book of wisdom that says this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV)

scripture

What Good is the Bible, Anyway?

In order to guard against “evil men and impostors”, Paul tells Timothy to look at his own exemplary life, and to continue in the things he has learned and been assured of (v 14). Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures offer him the necessary assurance to bear opposition and uncertainty. What are you ASSURED of? When the chips are down, what gives you strength and confidence? What do you absolutely believe?

We live in a world assaulted by relativism, where we are told that truth is subjective and individual. Something may be true for you, but it’s not necessarily true for everyone. One of Satan’s great accomplishments in our lifetime is his assault on the truth. If he can make us, like Pontius Pilate, question the nature of truth, he can reduce the influence of Scripture and erode the underpinnings of faith. And since Jesus said, “I am the truth”, it follows absolutely that by attacking truth, Satan is attacking Jesus, the Gospel, and everything that offers hope in this world.

Paul reminds Timothy that the Scripture is still his foundation. First, it is inspired by God. The original language asserts that God’s word is “God-breathed”. It is a dynamic, living document that was infused into authors so that it can be infused into us. Are Scriptures as much a part of your life as breathing? Do you ever consult the Bible on issues of morality, ethics, or how to get things done?

The Tools for Almost Every Job

Paul says that if you use Scripture, it is profitable and useful. It will equip you for doctrine (you will understand what generates and maintains the foundation of faith), for reproof (you will know how to exhort and encourage others), for correction (you will know right from wrong and be able to act upon it), and for instruction in righteousness (you can continue to be infused with the same character that God has).

If you invest in the Word, Paul says, you will be “complete”, and “thoroughly equipped for EVERY good work.” That covers a lot of good works. Grab hold of the Scripture. Get equipped. Do good.

A Workman's Tools

Paul tells Timothy to stay and study Scripture every day,
To find within its pages all the wisdom of the ages.
It offers doctrine and correction, reproof and spiritual protection;
Follow what it says. You'll find it helps your heart & soul and mind.
When into its wisdom you have dipped,
You'll find you have a foot that hasn't slipped,
And furthermore, my son, you'll be equipped!
Life can be approached by any fool; 
It's better if you use this awesome tool.
If you apply yourself, and do not shirk,
You'll soon be well-equipped to do good work.

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

Citizenship Quiz: As A Legal Alien, What are Your Rights and Obligations?

There is a lot of talk about citizenship these days. We tend to focus on political citizenship, and it’s certainly a hot topic, but there is another kind of citizenship that has no barriers and doesn’t require any walls: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20, NKJV) Even though we live on this earth, we are just passing through. Paul reminds us that the physical world, and even our physical bodies, are temporary dwelling places. As a Roman, Paul placed great importance on his citizenship.

citizenship

Roman Citizenship

He boldly claimed rights as a Roman citizen when he was involved in conflicts, and he was well-versed in what protection he had under Roman law. In the polyglot world of different cultures and religions, Roman citizenship was the gold standard of political protection. He often used his standing in the Empire to his legal or practical advantage, and people reacted with respect when he invoked the name of Rome. In Philippi he demanded that the magistrates come to validate his release from jail; in Ephesus, the city clerk quelled a riot that threatened violence; and in Jerusalem his status as a Roman once again saved him from an angry mob. Yet as much as he valued being Roman, his political status in the Roman world meant nothing compared to his true citizenship in heaven. (If people took American citizenship as seriously as Paul took being a Roman, we would all we would all be far more thankful about enjoying the rights we have in the United States!)

What does Citizenship Involve in the Long Run?

But the Bible takes a longer view of citizenship. Peter says that we are merely “sojourners and pilgrims” here (1 Peter 2:11). James is more to the point: “Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NIV) Comparing our short number of years here on earth to the reality of the years we will spend in eternity is an intimidating exercise.

Perhaps you have seen Francis Chan’s very powerful illustration of our life’s timeline as a long, long piece of rope, where our earthly sojourn is shown as some tape wrapped a mere couple of inches around the end he holds, and our eternal life is represented by the rest of the rope. It stretches on and on, off the stage and out the door. It’s a very visible object lesson our an earthly life span compared to an eternal one.

We are not here on earth very long. Stop to imagine for a moment how long eternity is, and picture yourself in it. Think of the possibilities of growth and learning, about the opportunity to build everlasting relationships that grow in every way but never grow stale. Think about being part of a kingdom where the King is amazingly loving and incredibly wise, and where you are not only His subject but his heir, with rights and privileges you never dreamed of. While our flesh is corruptible, and our bodies live in a carnal world where everything dies, our spirit is already residing in heaven, taking baby steps into immortality.

Do you really live as if your citizenship is in heaven? As a citizen of heaven, what are your rights? What are your obligations? Where is your allegiance? These are questions that all good citizens should be asking. If you don’t know the answers, maybe it’s time to spend a little more time on your heavenly social studies.

Good Citizenship

What if you had rights and privileges that you could use,
And permanent legal standing that no judge could dare refuse?
What if you had citizenship with all the perks it brings,
And got to be a subject for a wise and gracious king?
Would you exercise the right to live in such a place?
Would you be obedient to the lenient law of grace?
You should. And furthermore, I’d go tell all my friends and buddies
That there’s still time to brush up on their heavenly social studies.

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

The Sustenance That Feeds You Where You Need It Most

Sustenance is defined as “food and drink regarded as a source of strength; nourishment; or the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence.” As I’m sure you are all aware, sustenance is vital in this life, and all of us need something to eat. After all, it is what sustains you. But are there different kinds of sustenance? And do we eat what we need?

Jeremiah the prophet described that question in this way: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16, NKJV).

The Apostle Peter said this: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it…” (1 Peter 2:2, NKJV)

Different Kinds of Food

We need sustenance in the form of food or nutrition to grow physically. An important part of any training regimen involves proper fuel that provides the correct nutrients for the body… But how about other types of growth? Intellectual growth requires education and information; social development requires knowledge about etiquette; but what about spiritual growth? How does one sustain a spiritual life?  Besides the verses just mentioned here, there are several times that the Word of God is described as our sustenance or our spiritual food. It’s an interesting analogy, and one that deserves some thought.

First, it indicates that spiritual growth is a process, not something that happens instantly. You don’t eat all the meals of your life in one sitting, and you don’t absorb the Bible that way either. Peter says that we start as immature spiritual beings, and should begin with “the pure milk” of the word, receiving our sustenance in a form we can handle. It’s an analogy that makes sense. You grow in understanding God’s word as you “eat” it and apply it in your life, and it provides your spiritual sustenance.

You Are What You Eat

Second, look in the mirror at your physical self. Then imagine your spiritual self. If God’s word is your spiritual sustenance, then what kind of shape is your spiritual man in? How much sustenance does he or she get? When you look into your spiritual mirror, who do you see?

sustenance

I feed my physical body, (usually more than it requires) and I make sure it gets the fuel it needs to grow and stay strong. It’s easy for us to see the results of feeding our physical man. Now, picture your spiritual man (or woman) in your mind’s eye. He’s up there, waiting for nourishment. His needs are the same as or even greater than your physical body’s. But is he or she strong and healthy? How many meals a week are you feeding HIM (or HER)? For most of us, I’d bet that our “spiritual self” is just wasting away, looking like a prison camp refugee, half-starved and emaciated. Our spiritual self is weak and listless, propped over in a corner just waiting for the preacher to spoon-feed them their weekly meal…

Come to the Banquet

If God’s word is our spiritual food, we should be sitting at the banquet table enjoying a feast each day, not waiting for someone else to toss us a crust of bread every once in a while. Think about your poor spiritual body, and consider feeding it a little life-giving nourishment. Sit down and have a spiritual meal every so often.

Jeremiah says that if you do, a couple of things will happen. First, God’s words provide a reason to live with joy and rejoicing in your heart. Not a bad outcome if you’d like a little more JOY in your life! And second, Jeremiah says he was identified with God. He was called by God’s name, which means he was in the family, fully adopted as an heir—another positive result and another reason to rejoice. So eat. Grow. Rejoice. Repeat.

Eat Well, and Live

Look into your spiritual mirror. Who is looking back?
Are they strong, or is there maybe something that they lack?
If the Word of God is food, how often are they eating?
Do they get nutrition in the meals that you are feeding?
Can you, like Jeremiah, say the Word of God is filling?
Do you really want some? You can get it, if you’re willing.
You can say with him, “Thy Words were found, and I did eat them”,
And folks will sense a godly spirit in you when you meet them.
Remember this: the word of God is food, and it is real.
Your spiritual man should eat some every day, at every meal.

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

Three Simple Rules that Would Change the Entire World

There is a tremendous amount of conflict today about almost everything, it seems. With any issue we face, there are three or four sides, whether left/right/center or liberal/conservative/moderate. Our society is fragmented, and it hinders our ability to create positive change. If only we had some guidelines that were universal, that all of us could apply so that we could find peace rather than conflict.

What Kind of World Do We Live in? What Kind of World Do We Want?

Micah lived in a similar climate, full of corruption and division. His ministry took place in the Southern Kingdom under Ahaziah, one of the corrupt kings of Judah, and Hezekiah, who initiated some reforms. But Micah’s prophecy was directed primarily against Israel (the Northern Kingdom), who was enjoying a brief interlude of prosperity before the Assyrians came in to destroy, despoil, and deport. The average person didn’t see it coming, but Micah received his revelation from God’s spirit and offered some advice:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV) In the midst of his lament about the judgment of Israel, Micah provides three simple rules about how to live.

He has prophesied against Israel’s corrupt rulers and priests, and he has listed their transgressions. Israel’s leaders were scheming manipulators bent on oppressing their own people. (Wow, things don’t change much in government over the years, do they?)The priests abandoned true worship and were participating in pagan idolatry. Israel’s culture was corrupt and materialistic (sound familiar?). Because they were enjoying a brief time of financial prosperity, people lived with a false sense of security about their future. Wealth will do that to you…

Three Simple Rules

Micah predicts a time of Messianic restoration, but warns first of Israel’s fall, the deportation of its people, and the devastation of their way of life. How to avoid such a fate? Micah said it was possible, and offered three ways to avoid judgment and live:

1) Do justly. The Bible is full of warnings to those who abuse their power or oppress the downtrodden. Anyone who marginalizes, ignores, or ridicules others for being different must be reading a different Bible than the one I read. God’s character demands fairness, so treat others with love and respect. Our daily news is still filled with examples of injustice, and while it is an easy thing to say, eliminating injustice is a very hard thing for a society to DO. But as the slogan says, just do it.

2) Love mercy. Do you? Do you, really?? This means desiring mercy not just for ourselves, but for everybody else as well. This means not just requesting mercy, but dispensing it. Can you be merciful to those with whom you disagree, to those who are selfish and wrong, to those who don’t deserve it? God can—after all, He’s been merciful to me. He’s been merciful to you. If He only dispensed mercy to perfect people, none of us would get ANY. What if ALL of us Christians gave mercy the way it has been extended to us? Would the world be a different kind of place if EVERYONE loved mercy? If you love someone or something, you will make it a priority. You will put it ahead of your own interests. Maybe we could all extoll and extend mercy today. Oh yeah, and every day.

3) Walk humbly with your God. Wow, this one actually covers a lot of ground, because I think we are prideful in so many subtle ways that we don’t even realize all of them. I’m so sure of that I’ll say it: right now, sitting there reading this, you have pride issues in your life. Yes, you do! (And so do I) Suffice it to say that we are not naturally humble, and we pretty much operate from a “me-first” point of view. If you took inventory of things in your life that make you proud, or things that make you satisfied, how many of those things are self-centered? At family gatherings, do you wash the dishes? Do you love your stuff? Are you proud of being humble?

three

Walking humbly with God would require first that we actually WALK with God, spending time with Him daily, moving at His pace, staying connected with Him much like Enoch did. And being humble requires that we remember who God is, and who we are: Who God is. Who you are. Take a moment to think about that, and start the day with three simple things. Be just. Be merciful. Be humble. I think we could agree that if everybody did that today it would change the world; but here’s the real point: if YOU do it, it might just change yours.

Change the World, Three Things at a Time

Three things that God requires of man, three very simple rules
To help the leaders and the priests all keep from being fools:
Do justly. Offer justice every single time you can;
Love mercy. Always be forgiving with your fellow-man.
Walk humbly with your God, Oh man, His perfect love inspires
So you can do what He has shown you, all that He requires.

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

Walking into Uncharted Territory is Scary. Why not Walk with a Guide Instead?

The Bible has some things to say about walking. It tells us to walk in faith, to walk together, and to walk in love. A person’s walk is really indicative of the way they live and how they conduct themselves. That’s what makes this brief snippet about Enoch so interesting. “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:21-24, NIV)

Short Eulogies

Genesis 5 is a summary of the lives of those who lived from Adam to Noah. Almost every one ends with an obituary, saying they lived so many years, had such-and-such offspring, and ends with the statement “then he died.” Not a long eulogy, just a simple account of who descended from who, and a pretty spare description of how it ended, “then he died.” After all, that’s how it is for everyone, right?

walking blind

We walk uncertainly through a changing world headed towards a certain end. Not so with Enoch. He is mentioned in the Bible several times. The Genesis account says that Enoch “walked faithfully with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.” Jude 14 says that Enoch was the seventh in line from Adam (apparently counting Adam), descending from Seth.

Enoch was apparently a noteworthy individual for several reasons. There is an Apocryphal book of Enoch attributed to him. He is commended for walking faithfully with God in Hebrews 11:5 which says, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” So why is Enoch special? What the Bible says about him is that “he walked faithfully with God.” Why is that such a big deal?

Walking the Walk

Dig a little deeper into that simple statement: 1) Walking implies proximity. To walk WITH someone, you have to be near them. Who are you near? Who do you walk with?

2) Walking with God suggests intentionality, since to walk TOGETHER means you both agreed to make that happen; (Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”) Simple but true.

3) It implies intimacy, since you travel at a pace that allows for interaction and conversation.

4) Walking FAITHFULLY means it happened consistently with commitment, and it also suggests that Enoch walked the way God was going: Enoch. Followed. God.

5) Finally, it suggests strong individuality: apparently not everybody does it, since the Bible emphasizes Enoch’s life in three different places.

Quick, of all the people you know, who do you immediately think of as faithfully walking with God? Why do you see them that way? How much time do you spend with them? How do the people you DO spend time with walk? Does it lift you up or drag you down?

This, of course, begs the question: Are YOU walking with God? Are you walking FAITHFULLY with God? When they write your obituary, and summarize what you did on this earth, don’t let it read, “He or she knew God was out there, kinda agreed with Him, but pretty much decided to only hang out with Him every now and then, and basically went his or her own way because they thought they knew better.”

Different types of walks have different types of results. Don’t wait for pie in the sky when you die by-and-by. Reach up, take your Father’s hand, and start walking.

A Good Walk

The Bible says that Enoch was out walking with God each day,
And then he “was no more” because God took him clean away!
Apparently he was more than just a guy who talked the talk;
Enoch rose above his peers because he walked the walk.
When someone writes the epitaph for all you say and do,
Who will they say you walked with, and who also walked with 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