A Campaign of Sabotage: Weakness Versus Strength

There is a campaign of sabotage going on all around you, and you may not have even noticed it. It is a real campaign in a real war, but it is a war where strength and weakness are upside down. Paul talks about it like this:

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:25-27 KJV)

The whole story of the gospel sounds improbable. God created heaven and earth. He made earth perfect and full of love, a place where He could walk with man and interact with his creation. He offered a place where man could live in peace and harmony as long as he chose to be obedient. The great deceiver launched a campaign of misinformation to counter God’s offer, and mankind rebelled and set up his own system based on power, greed, and lust.

campaign

Instead of a world free from pain and suffering, man lives in a fallen world whose selfish inhabitants bully, hate, and kill each other. (If you don’t believe that, check your history books. Or listen to the news.) Those inhabitants have used corruption, money, and brute strength to build their various kingdoms apart from God’s values and authority. By His very nature God is loving and kind, and stands apart from the campaign of death and destruction that the world pursues… God has offered people opportunities to set themselves apart and return to him– but Man, with his logic and pride, figured he could earn his way back to heaven by works, and force God to take him back on his own merits.

The Creator (knowing what was truly required to satisfy Righteous Judgment) had a different plan. Instead of retaking the world by force, He opted to take it back by using mere love. God entered the world in the form of a tiny, helpless infant who alone could pay the price for man’s rebellion and offer peace and salvation. God did not force rebels to receive Him, but allowed (and still allows) man to find and accept Him by faith. The catch is that man must relinquish by faith his independence in order to allow God to empower his spiritual self in the midst of a carnal world.

God sent His Son into a rebellious, deadly kingdom ruled by selfishness, pride, and power and offered instead love, humility, and service. He chose to confound men’s wisdom with seeming foolishness, and men’s power with what seemed like weakness. Depravity exercised its muscle in this earthly kingdom in the form of despots and dictators who rule by using violence and intimidation. Jesus came to earth and taught that men should serve to lead and humble themselves in order to be exalted.

C. S. Lewis said, “Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage.” Saboteurs resist the status quo, refusing to buy in to the world’s power structures, the things that men celebrate, and the short-sighted goals of the carnal mentality.

If there is indeed a God, then there is a different set of values and an eternal timetable. There is a spiritual world available to men in the midst of the world of carnal power. If Jesus is who he said he is, then all Christians are living as part of the resistance behind enemy lines. The question is this: Which side are you on? You are either living behind enemy lines, offering alternatives to force, hatred, power, and pride, or you ARE the enemy.
Beware, and choose wisely.

God has chosen foolish things to contradict the wise,
Confounding both the mighty and the strong.
God has used invisible power right before our eyes,
And asked the world of men to come along.
But things that men have celebrated are not really consecrated,
And the things the world will seek go to the strong and not the meek.
The weakness is the wise won’t speak of spirit which it deems as weak
The world of men’s conceit will hold that there is nothing stranger
Than God investing mankind’s hope into a rustic manger,
And somehow turning that into a history re-arranger.

 

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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Meekness is Not Weakness. It Could Even Win the Preakness.

I have heard the phrase “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” many times, and I have always wondered about Jesus’ meekness. Was he just some sort of milk-toast or doormat? Was Jesus a weakling? Then I did some research about meekness, and found out there was more to it than being a wimp:

meekness not weakness

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26, NKJV)

Paul’s letter to Timothy contains practical advice about relationships and sharing the truth as well as a startling cosmic reminder about the state of mankind. He admonishes Timothy to avoid fruitless arguments, and to be gentle and patient when facing opposition. This is pretty good advice about all relationships, and there are some valuable insights that can be gained from what Paul says here.

He tells Timothy to teach with humility. The Greek word he uses (praus) is usually translated as mildness or meekness. Jesus uses it in Matthew 11:29-30, when he says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Remember, this is the same Jesus who overthrew the moneychangers’ tables in the temple. He who blazed with glory on the Mount of transfiguration. He endured the cross. The Greek idea for meekness is not being a doormat. It is one of controlled power. Think of a gentled horse. They don’t lose all of their power, but they are trained and therefore disciplined enough to channel their power; they are still strong enough to throw you but they don’t.

meekness

Gentleness is also the eighth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. The quality of meekness is not abject weakness, it’s like a horse that could win the Preakness. (Ha, try to forget THAT!) Emulate Jesus and be filled with the Spirit.

The other thing Paul points out in this passage is that there are only two kinds of people in this world: there are those who know the truth, and those who have been taken captive by the snare of the devil. Seems kind of radical, doesn’t it? I mean, taken captive by the devil, come on! Surely my friends, my neighbors, those other people on the highway are not captured by the devil!

Ask yourself this, though: If someone is not living for Christ, who are they living for? Never forget that you reside in occupied territory behind enemy lines. Everyone who has not found the truth is captive to something else, something they may not even acknowledge or be aware of. It may be that you are uniquely positioned to share the Truth with someone so that they can escape the devil’s trap. Be powerful. Be gentle.

This world is hard. This world is wild, and ever since I was a child
I’ve heard the Lord described as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”.
I know that he was good and right; I know that Jesus didn’t fight,
But there were things about him that would indicate a hidden might:
He entered the Temple with a shout and threw the money changers out.
He took the beating and the cross, defeated Satan like a Boss,
And conquered evil, sin and death as all eternity held its breath.
See, “meekness” in the Greek has more of a meaning if you seek it,
And it doesn’t always come across the way we usually speak it.
In Greek it’s like a harnessed force, something like a gentled horse,
Very strong and yet controlled in all the power that it holds.
Greek meekness is not weakness, it’s enough to win the Preakness.
Meek Jesus really should be styled as “Powerful Savior, strong and Wild”

 

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

Glory Certainly Isn’t Something You See Every Day; Or IS IT?

You have seen glory a few times, I’m sure: a majestic view or something magnificent; but I don’t think most of us walk around each day as if we are in the midst of something glorious. It was different for David and the other folks who wrote the Psalms. The Psalmist had only to look up to behold the Glory of God. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1, NIV) “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV) “O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8, NIV)

glory of the heavens

The average ancient man had a far greater insight to astronomy than we do today. After all, they didn’t have electricity so there was no competition with starlight and no corruption of the view. Sailors navigated by the stars, and religions build observation temples to track their pathways in the night skies. Their perception of how the moon and the stars moved through the heavens was far more acute than most of ours is today…

David shared that understanding of the night skies, but he also had a wonderful sense of spiritual perception. It’s not totally surprising, when you think about all of the nights he spent out in the countryside tending sheep, sleeping beneath the canopy of space. There were no city lights, there was no TV and no glowing media to distract him—just the vastness of the universe spread overhead as far as he could see—the infinite richness of light in the darkness, the movement of the constellations in the heavens, and hours of time to reflect on what it must mean.

He apparently came to the conclusion that the universe was amazing, and so was The One who made it. He carried that impression throughout his entire life, whether he was a shepherd, a hero, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. God was amazing and glorious, and David’s humility and awe before Him set the foundation for a lifetime love affair. The evidence David saw about the Creator’s majesty affected his heart as well, and he lived his life with a profound understanding that God’s glory was not just around him but was also within him. When he said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, he was acknowledging the Creator’s work not just around him, but within him as well.

All of us have had moments like that, when we got a glimpse of God’s majesty and recalibrated our place in the universe. Maybe it happened to you when you saw an amazing sunset, approached snow-capped mountains rising from the plains, or lay out on a hillside at night and gazed into the dazzling vastness of the Milky Way: God’s presence surrounded and astounded you, and called you to worship the Creator. Perhaps you even felt God’s glory in the midst of a church service, singing a song or lost in worship…

Say, when was the last time God was glorious to you? When was the last time you felt the awesomeness of God, and felt humbled and reverent before Him? When was the last time you saw God for who he is and fell in love with Him a little more?

I’ve toured some amazing cathedrals in Europe, and I know they were built on a magnificent scale to try to capture a smidgen of God’s glory. When you enter them you feel a sense of awe and wonder. Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth details the blood, sweat, and effort that went into building some of them, and it’s a good read. The intent behind was similar to the passion behind the Temple in Jerusalem, to show worshippers a glimpse of glory.

In our casual world of flip-flops and coffee in church, I sometimes long for worship where we encounter God in his glory. In our world of busy-ness and distraction, I long for reflection and reverence. If, like me, you struggle sometimes with seeing God in His glory, then remember this: the most important place we encounter God is not in nature, and not even in His house, but in the sanctuary of our hearts. You are fearfully and wonderfully made–not just physically, but spiritually as well.

Where do you find God’s glory? Look up. Look around. Look within. Recalibrate.

The heavens display the glory of God! We see his presence there,
Far-flung among the galaxies and painted everywhere.
The palette of the sunsets blazes forth in every hue
As pink and gold are splashed across the heaven’s perfect blue.
The mountains rise majestically beyond us from afar
Reminding us how big God is, and just how small we are.
We all know His glory in the grandest things abides,
But there’s a place much closer where His presence still resides;
To truly see God’s glory, here’s the place where you should start:
Don’t gaze at the horizon, take a look inside your heart.

 

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

Counsel and Wisdom: Better Be Careful with that Bucket!

The Bible has a few things to say about counsel: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5, NKJV) “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15, NKJV) “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out“. (Proverbs 20:5, NKJV)

counsel deep

The word “counsel” is used a number of times in the Old Testament, and it is an interesting term. It sometimes simply means God’s wisdom and direction. It can also refer to resources that provide wisdom or guidance in making decisions, or it is used to describe sage advice. Think for a minute: where do YOU go for wise counsel? Who is it YOU turn to for sage advice?

Here in Proverbs 1:5 and 12:15, it is a noun that means to bind, or to pledge. It comes from the picture of using a rope or a cord on a large animal in order to pull or guide it in the proper direction. Without assistance in steering, an ox could end up plowing crooked rows, or it might wander over into a ditch. So it is with us. Our actions will be more profitable when they are guided by wise counsel.

The Bible says that not only is God a wonderful source of counsel, but so are others who have been blessed with wisdom. There is a godly wisdom that only comes from walking with Him and being invested in His word. But Wisdom can also be practical, attained through life experiences. There is an old saying that “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” I know I have illustrated the last part of that homily many times. Perhaps you have too.

One way to bypass the trial-and-error process is to seek the counsel of someone who is wise, godly, and experienced. Such a person would not offer a knee-jerk response or fire off an emotional email. The word picture in 20:5 is instructive because it describes a process for obtaining the kind of counsel that is truly beneficial (like water to a thirsty man in a dry land). It maintains that good counsel doesn’t come quickly or easily; it says that there is effort required to pull the heavy bucket of life-giving water up from the cool depths of the well; and that care needs to be taken with the precious contents so that none of it is wasted…

When Proverbs says, “counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”, WHO do you think of? Chances are that after you have prayed and looked into God’s word for advice, they might be the right person to call when you are making your plans or wrestling with a big decision. Get wise counsel. Make good decisions.

We all have times we wish for good advice that we could keep.
Proverbs says that counsel is like water, dark and deep;
When facing life decisions, and your heart is full of doubt,
Godly counsel can be there to help you think things out.
Proverbs says a man who thinks he’s right may be a fool,
But in the well, the water’s deep and takes a longer pull:
A man of understanding can provide a bucketful.
Though a fool may see himself as right in his own eyes,
It’s better to seek counsel from a person who is wise;
If you must choose, then I advise you try that on for size.

 

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

Action is Always the Result of Faith: If You Have Faith, You Will Take Action

There’s a law of spiritual physics: for every smidgen of faith, there is a corresponding action. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8, NIV)

The story of Abraham is central to the story of the Bible. It is also, coincidentally, central to your story and mine. We don’t know much about Abram before he encountered God; he was a competent citizen of Ur, and he was descended from Shem. What we do know is that is that he settled with his father Terah in Haran, and that his wife Sarai was barren. (Because that seems so close to a rhyme, I couldn’t make myself write it any other way.) In Genesis 12:1, it says, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.” The amazing thing is that Abram heard and immediately obeyed God, and went out to start a new life at age 75.

action and faith

He had faith in what God promised, and it motivated him to do what God instructed. I think that one of the consistent hallmarks of faith is obedience. If you believe that God has given you something to do, then you do it. The next logical step is that obedience always results in DOING something!

True faith is never passive, because it obeys; and obedience always results in ACTION. Let me repeat that: true faith ALWAYS results in ACTION. This is basically what James says about faith when he connects it to works; he never says that works produce faith, but that faith always produces works: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:17-18, NIV)

A faithful life is a life of obedience that leads to adventure! Abram’s life and story illustrated that a man of 75 could follow God’s call to new places, new horizons, and new adventures! So, what does the call of a Chaldean nomad from the pages of ancient history have to do with us?

There is a direct connection between the way the God of relationships worked with Abram and the way He still works with us. Every single one of us is called to go out, not knowing our destination or the surety of the outcome. A quick glance through Matthew serves to remind us that Jesus said “Follow me” in 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, and 19:21. You really can’t explore the Bible very much at all without being confronted by a call from the Lord of the universe.

God asks every single one of us to leave the earthly things which make us feel secure and to follow where He calls us to go. We have several options: 1) we can refuse to hear that call; 2) we can ignore the call; 3) we have the option to disobey and go our own way; or 4) we can place all of our trust in the Lord’s leadership and travel in obedience with the God of action and adventure.

Based on his decision to obey, Abram’s name ended up of the roll call of the heroes of the faith. If you are wondering, God is still calling, and that list is still being written. Have faith. Obey. Take action.

Abram, son of Terah, was comfortably settled in Haran.
His life was good, and he did what he should,
Though his lovely wife Sarai was barren.
But then there was that conversation
When God told him, “Leave your relations,
Obey my command and go find a new land
And I’ll turn you into a great nation.”
Well Abram believed this command he received;
And though he could have stayed, he went out and obeyed!
He changed his whole life, took his goods and his wife
And achieved satisfaction because he took action.
If you believe God, then get to it,
Since faith isn’t faith ’til you DO it.

 

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

Why Being Reserved Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means

When Jesus used the word “sanctify” he was actually talking about being reserved, but not in the sense of being low-key. SO you don’t have to be “reserved” to actually BE “reserved”… In his prayer the night he was betrayed, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:17-20, NKJV)

Jesus not only said He WAS the truth (John 14:6) and that the truth would set us free ((John 8:32), but he asked the Father to sanctify us by the truth. In a spiritual sense the word “sanctify” means to set apart for sacred use, and that is the most common application of the word. But because it is kind of churchy word, I don’t think we use it as practically as we should. It actually means RESERVED. When you make a reservation at a restaurant, there should be a table reserved for your use. Leroy Eims said that a Jeep parked outside headquarters and designated with Four stars is “sanctified” (set apart) for the General, and woe to any Second Lieutenant who takes it for a spin!

reserved jeep

Baker’s Dictionary says that the generic meaning is “the state of proper functioning. To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is “sanctified” when used to write. Eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight.” Obviously things work better when we use them for what they were designed for. You use eyeglasses to see, but not to scramble eggs or unlock the door; you use God’s word not just as an interesting old book, but also to change the very state of your existence. So when Jesus prayed for us in the garden, and asked his Father to sanctify us, what did He mean by that?

reserved for God

First of all, he acknowledges that we are set apart. As his followers, we have stepped outside of the previous boundaries of our existence and into a spiritual journey of obedience and transformation. As a believer, you live in a sanctified state and are set apart for God’s use. To me, that’s set apart from not only culture but also religion. We are set apart to be in a RELATIONSHIP with God, not to be self-righteous or merely religious.

It’s interesting that in this short snippet of Jesus’ prayer, he answers a big theological question—why the cross? He said, “I set myself apart” so that we could be “truly sanctified”, and our sanctification involves being set apart so that the life of Jesus could be manifested in us. That’s why Paul says (in Galatians 2:20), “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” It was only by Jesus’ crucifixion that we could be “truly sanctified”.

Second, Jesus said that each of us has a purpose for which we were specifically made. Just as He was being sanctified for his journey to the cross, he prayed for every one of us to be used the way our Designer intended us to be used. Did the Designer intend for us to live consumed with our own selfish fleshly desires, or with a spiritual nature that can lift us out of our carnal selfishness to love and service? That’s why the rest of Galatians 2:20 says “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The life that Jesus lived empowers the life the Father wants us to live.

Two questions: What do you think your Designer intended for you to do? And

2) are you allowing Truth to sanctify you and set you apart so that you are equipped to do it?

In the garden, Jesus prayed the night before he died;
He prayed on our behalf and asked that we be sanctified.
He prayed for us, and asked that you and I be set apart
To feel the Father’s love for us, to know the Father’s heart.
When his work was finished, would he ask of me and you,
Tell me, children, what have you been sanctified to 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

Sand or Stone? What Kind of Foundation are your values built on?

It may seem obvious that a foundation should be built on bedrock instead of sand, but sand seems to be making a comeback as the foundation of choice. Here’s what Jesus said about it:

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” (Luke 6:46-48, NIV)

In some recent discussions about truth, a couple of folks have dismissed the Bible and told me that it is merely a myth containing some truth, but certainly not THE truth. If I go by what I read on social and mainstream media, this seems to be a common viewpoint. To much of the world, truth is relative to every individual, so it is getting harder to find common ground. In today’s world, whether it is politics or journalism or social media, truth is built on shifting sand.

If Truth is relative, it follows that right and wrong are also relative. “What’s true for you is not necessarily true for me.” “You have no authority to tell me what to do. Right and wrong only exist in our own minds!” I understand where that thinking comes from, and it seems to have lots of momentum these days. Our culture chafes under any authority. TV commercials tell you to break the rules, not to share, or to color outside the lines. We ignore what law enforcement officials tell us to do. Lying and changing your position used to be considered a deal-breaker when running for President. Today it is pretty common, and there is little public outcry or backlash.

Relativism opens all kinds of doors. We should legalize weed because it’s no worse than alcohol, and lots of people do it. Criminals are called courageous for shooting at police. Even something as seemingly obvious as gender, we are told, is really just a matter of choice. Our moral values seem to be built on the shifting sand of public opinion.

sand not stone

But according to Jesus, there is a firm foundation to build upon. The teaching of Jesus set a different kind of standard for how we should be accountable and how we should treat one another. This passage highlights that there are two great dangers: One, don’t assume you know Jesus just because you go to church, or because you seem outwardly connected to him. He says we not only need to know what he said, but to live by it.

Second, he says that we should build our values and our goals upon what He taught. We should dig deep and stand firm. If you say you follow Jesus but don’t know everything he said, get busy. He claimed to be “The way, the truth, and the life.” If that statement is true, you owe it to yourself to re-read, revisit, and reapply.

If you don’t know what Jesus said, don’t dismiss him. At some point in your life, when the storms of difficulty break upon you, you will find yourself in need of a firm foundation. When that happens, all the shifting sand in the world won’t do you any good. Dig deep. Build. Stand.

Jesus once described two homes, both built in different places;
Each of them was built upon extremely different bases.
One was built upon the rock, the strongest substance on the block,
And when disaster tried to knock it down it just withstood the shock!
The other, built on softer stuff, foundation made of sandy fluff,
Was never really strong enough and really wasn’t very tough.
The moral here is simple: if you want your house to stand,
Build your house upon the rock, and not on shifting sand.

 

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

Is Life About Merriment or Moments? And What Difference Does it Make?

Why are we here? It is a question asked by every generation, and one of the most common answers is, we are put on this earth merely to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” So ask yourself, is merriment the main purpose of our existence? What are we supposed to get out of life, anyway? Consider this:

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”. (Psalm 118:17, NIV) David actually says a lot in this short comment from the Psalms about the celebration of life. To me, it echoes Christ’s statement in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” To start from the end and go backwards, David proclaims that he is alive to “declare the works of the Lord”. He looks to a Being greater than himself to find a purpose greater than himself.

Like David, your life has a purpose greater than what you see. If you play the game, “Six Degrees of Separation” where you know somebody who knows somebody else who knows the President or Kevin Bacon, you realize how interconnected and small the world is, and just how large your life is. It will touch corners of the globe where you have never been, and all kinds of people you have not seen. Because of that your life has a purpose much greater than simply living for yourself, and yet that is what many of us do.

As Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” says, we are here for God’s pleasure, not just our own. That’s why it is called His-story, and not My-story! Do you ever stop to realize that you are casual and short-sighted about life, even though you only get one chance at it? Life is not a dress rehearsal! The first part of this verse says, “I shall not die but live”, reminding us that our life will not end, and has a purpose far greater than its earthly span. I think we forget sometimes that life is far greater than an earthly sojourn—it is an eternal adventure.

merriment

C S Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Are you serious about eternity? Do you enjoy merriment of the merriest kind?

As eternal beings, we have the opportunity to reflect the character and works of our creator. Do you think most people live as if their actions today mattered forever? Do you? Would your world be a better place if you interacted with others as though your conversation was an eternal transaction? As C. S. Lewis points out, it adds weight to things, even to our merriment. I’m not against parties (I love to party!), but I am not too impressed with purely frivolous parties. I mean, we all partied like it was 1999, but I’m not sure it added anything meaningful to our existence. But a party with people you actually love, celebrating together– why, that’s eternal.

The Psalmist not only speaks of the length of his life, he also proclaims its purpose: to “declare the works of the Lord.” What if you lived today with that in mind? Would anything change? Has God done any work in you, around you, or through you that deserves declaration? Since you are no mere mortal, live as if you matter. Live as if GOD matters. And have some merriment of the merriest kind.

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!
But do you ever look around, or pause to wonder why?
Why are we put here on earth, and what’s the reason for our birth,
And what could be the purpose that imparts to us eternal worth?
It’s really no great mystery, the way to make some History
Is living for God’s pleasure. That’s the only thing to measure.

 

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

Writing YOUR Story: It’s Time for YOU to write ME! Let me Hear From YOU!

Why have I been writing these posts for the last 980 days (give or take)? Maybe because “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1, 2, NIV) The Bible is an amazing book, and it makes some powerful claims about Jesus. Those claims are either an incredible lie or they are absolutely true. There’s really no middle ground.

I have been writing these posts because I believe those claims are true.

It has been about three years since I started this daily devotional, and I have a confession to make. Writing these posts every day is hard. It has required a commitment that I honestly didn’t know I had. I am not a “discipline guy”, I am a creative, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Throughout my life I have been a sporadic Quiet Time guy rather than an every-day-journal kind of guy.

From the beginning of this endeavor, I have followed a few simple rules: 1) The first year, I was going to try to produce or edit one every day; 2) I wouldn’t follow anyone else’s menu for Scripture reading or devotionals (which explains why it has been pretty random in terms of what passages it addressed when); 3) during this last year I have gone back through to do some editing and add a poem to every single post; and 4) I would write for an audience of one (Him) and make applications for the reader who needed them the most (me).

I have tried my best to keep my posts organic and to allow them to come naturally through my own reading and experiences during the year. While I certainly reflected the good preaching I have heard and authors I have read, the poetry, commentary, errors, reflections and conclusions in my writing have been mine. ( I have tried to be Biblical, not political, and I hope that has been the case in my blog…) I wanted to begin every day with the Book that has changed my life in the hope that you, too, could gain a deeper appreciation of its depth and subtlety.

I consider the Bible to be (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16) inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. If you have been keeping up, during the past year we have had a chance to look more closely at Easter and the Passion week; we followed Jesus and his disciples chronologically in “real-time” over His last week on earth.

We were able to start in Genesis and go through every book in the Bible, discovering some great stuff about God in the Minor Prophets along the way. We dove into Christ’s genealogy, looked at historical and political underpinnings of His birth, and explored the revolutionary way He broke down social and religious barriers in a world full of them. We looked at some of His teachings, and I know I came away more impressed than ever at His wisdom and insight. I have reflected on travels in Israel and been exposed to the land of the Bible. I have tried to compare the teachings of Jesus to our culture and to my own behavior.

writing about Jesus

If Jesus was who He said he was, then He is a man worth studying, a leader worth emulating, and a God worthy of worship. It is my prayer that you would take an honest look at Him and see those conclusions as evident and logical. If you have read along for any length of time this year, I would LOVE to hear your story, and would really appreciate it if you either:

1) share one of your own insights or applications in the comments (which is easy, come on just jot something down!), or 2) PM me with your story or comment as you feel appropriate. I would really REALLY like to hear from you, so take a minute NOW and reply or respond. I honestly don’t expect to get many replies, but it would be really cool if a bunch of you would surprise me and tell me a little bit of YOUR story, how you met Christ or something you have learned lately… If you want to tell me you disagree with everything I’ve written, that would be ok too! If you are too busy to write a long story, then please respond with a short sentence or a one-word comment.

I have taken comments and feedback to heart, and a couple of people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to invest more time in writing poetry with each of my posts. So I’ve done that over the last year. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite poem or if any of the verse has meant something to you. (My secret dream is that somewhere unbeknownst to me, some pastor uses one of my poems in a sermon because it captures something of the message he preached that day!)
I’ll close with one of my favorite poems of mine, one that reflects on John and the impact his writing has had on me:

The Writer
Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!
Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be?
Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…
But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

 

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

The Substance of Hope, Or How Faith Changed the World

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).

The writer of Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. If you dissect the syllables and break that down, substance comes from sub (under) and stance (from stand), or that which stands under a thing. Knowing what stands under a thing will often help our understanding OF a thing. The Greek word used for substance is hypostasis, which referred to the underlying state or condition of a thing. It was also a legal term used in real estate transactions because it indicated that there was an underlying legal document (the title-deed) that provided proof of ownership and possession.

Faith is basically our deed of trust, giving us ownership of hope, and a reasonable expectation that God will do what He promised to do. The things which we CAN see are a down payment towards the things we CAN’T see. Creation points us towards faith and proves God’s reliability, because it demonstrates that all visible things were made by the One who is not visible. God does what He does. You can believe or not believe. You can choose to ignore the evidence He placed about himself into creation—the vastness of the universe, the delicate balance of the earth hung in orbit, the intricacy of a cell, the seasons, a flower, and the canvas of the sky every day—or you can allow it to stimulate faith.

substance

If you follow God by faith, the writer of Hebrews says, it will change your life. The elders obtained a good testimony by their faith, and Hebrews 11 goes on to discuss the stories of those who believed, and changed not only their own lives but human history as well… Faith is a big deal, ya’ll, but here’s the thing: God will never MAKE you believe.

It’s an interesting intellectual conundrum, but God did not make himself provable because He has given us a choice. An empirical God (one with substance that could be proven physically) would remove our will from the equation; we’d have no choice but to accept Him and worship Him. So the loving God preserved our choice by withholding PROOF and giving us EVIDENCE. That way we can decide how we feel about Him.

You can be skeptical about a God who painted portions of His self-portrait into a chosen people, an Exodus, the Pentateuch, a shepherd-king, the Psalms, the prophets, history (His Story), His Son, the Word, and into relationships throughout every generation… You can dismiss the people of faith as irrational, and you can live your entire life ignoring God. You don’t have to seek God or engage Him in any way. You don’t ever have to have faith in God…

But if you decide that faith in God is not for you, there are things you will never understand about God. You will never know about the substance of His character, His generosity, His wisdom, or His love. You won’t discover the presence of a loving Father who provides comfort to those who mourn and a home to those who wander. And, oh yeah, your world will never change; it will never stretch beyond the boundaries of what you see or know empirically.

But if you search for God, Hebrews 11:6 gives makes this awesome claim: “whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

Wherever you come from, wherever you’ve been, whatever you believe or think: if you seek God in faith, He will be pleased and He will respond to you. Seek in faith today. Be rewarded forever.

Faith is what we hope for based on what we cannot see–
Like holding grapes, anticipating wine.
We see the universe and wonder how it came to be,
Inferring a Designer from design.
God is not empirical, or a theorem you can prove,
His substance is much more than what is taught;
He says that faith will find Him, and the mountain can be moved,
But it’s your choice to live by faith, or not.
You can live by intellect, observe God and critique Him;
Or You can get to know Him, if by faith you truly seek Him.

 

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