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

Habakkuk Tells us to Rejoice When Things Fall Apart. Really?

Habakkuk seemed to have it backwards. He tells us to rejoice in failure. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV) Certainly the events of 2020 so far could give Habakkuk’s situation a run for its money. Between political acrimony, the Covid 19 pandemic with its attendant economic hardships, and the tension unleashed by George Floyd’s tragic and unnecessary death, this year has been one wave of bad news after another.

As the past few months have shown us, there are times on this earth when everything seems to fall apart. It can be a major calamity or it can even be an accumulation of small things, but sometimes it seems like life is just not fair.

Habakkuk knew

There is a reason people say, “It never rains, but it pours”, because calamities and irritations seem to travel in a pack. Failure happens. Something mechanical breaks down. A relationship gets strained. A bill comes due, and there is no money in the account to pay it. Cable goes out just before the big game… And sometimes, it all seems to happen at once.

Habakkuk says that even in the midst of breakdowns and unfortunate circumstances, “Yet I will rejoice in The Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior”. Habakkuk says “I will”. He chooses to see the good God has done and refuses to dwell on the evil around him. God does not afflict us, He offers us salvation. He uses even bad circumstances for good–to build patience, to draw us closer to Him, or to make us more like His son. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I know that’s easy to say, and harder to believe, but God promises that He can provide the silver lining behind every dark cloud.

So when you encounter failure, the crops fail, and the fridge is empty, don’t give up! Like Habakkuk, say “I will”! If you are experiencing something difficult, don’t despair. Winston Churchill said, during England’s dark days under Nazi attack: “When you are going through hell, keep going.” Habakkuk takes that challenge even further. He says we should flip the tables on it and rejoice! Joy is a choice we can make, and the Lord promises that He will work within even your worst circumstances for your good, and to give you reasons to rejoice. When the worst happens, we may not gain triumph over circumstances from an earthly perspective, but we can gain intimacy with God, and He can use circumstances to improve us. Habakkuk also says that we can choose to rejoice no matter what, so take heart: choose joy.

 
Choose Joy

Habakkuk says, when times are hard, that he will still rejoice:
Could it be, like trusting God, that joy can be a choice?
Though circumstances flail you, don't allow them to derail you,
So whatever that entails and whatsoever may assail you,
Place hope and trust in God, and know that He will never fail 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

Watch What You Hear, and Think and See: Such Things Become Your Destiny

Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi was essentially a love letter to a group of dear friends. At the time he wrote it, he was in all likelihood under the watch of Roman guards during his house arrest in Rome, around AD 61. His letter was full of affection and Fatherly advice, seasoned with some encouraging exhortation. If you read the whole letter, it is easy to see that Paul wrote them based on the close personal relationships he had formed among them.

watch

A Better Kind of “Whatever”

As the epistle draws to a close, he offers them this exhortation: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).

Paul’s advice to the Philippians was given in a simpler time, when people had fewer options and more control over what they thought about. They could actually choose what to think about rather than having their thoughts (pick one) influenced, polluted, distracted, contaminated, invaded, diluted, or dulled by hundreds or perhaps thousands of daily media messages… (Sources say that they average American sees 3000-5000 commercial messages a DAY! Even if it is half that, think about the number of images and messages you encounter daily.)

Now ask yourself this: Of the media you hear or see every day (TV, movies, advertising, song lyrics, social media, Pinterest, Internet searches, etc.), how much of it is noble or pure? How much of it is excellent or praiseworthy? How many hours a day are you watching or listening to someone else? What music do you listen to? What does it really say? What song lyrics have you memorized over the years without even thinking about it? Paul says what we put into our minds is one of the keys to enjoying a peaceful heart!

Realizing What Becomes You

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met.” What has become part of YOU? Even some of the “harmless” media like Facebook or Pinterest can suck you in and hold you spellbound over things of this earth. You can waste a LOT of time dreaming of things and comparing, even perhaps coveting some of the things you see… And there are FAR more harmful things than Pinterest out there on the internet. So be careful what you think about. Don’t forget the acronym to WATCH your inner life: Watch your Words, for Words become Actions. Watch your Actions, for Actions become Thoughts; Watch your Thoughts, for Thoughts become Consistent; Consistent Actions become Habits. Watch your Habits, for they become your Destiny. I have modified that old statement in a way that seems more progressive to me: WATCH refers to What you see, your Attitudes, Time, Character, and Habits, and how that influences your Will, your Actions, your Treasure, your Companions, and How you Live:

WATCH

Watch WHAT YOU SEE, for when you close your eyes, you see it still:
It nibbles the foundation at the corners of your WILL.
Your Will affects your ATTITUDE and ACTIONS that you take;
They influence your TIME and the decisions that you make.
Your THOUGHTS become your CHARACTER, which governs what you do,
Or maybe the COMPANIONS you decide to take with you…
Will they create good HABITS in the end, or will you see
That what you’ve done in all these things affects your destiny?
Paul challenged folks in Philippi to think on what is pure,
To dwell on lovely, noble things of which they could be sure.
He challenged them to think on what is lovely, right and true:
If that advice was good for them, it’s good for me. And 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

Riches of Inheritance are Not Diminished by Adoption

If I could write a really awesome prayer for you, it might go something like this: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know the hope to which he [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:18-21, NIV).

Ephesians is Paul’s letter of superlatives. He talks about the riches of God’s grace “lavished on us” (1:7); Christ being “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (1:23); the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace (2:7); the “boundless riches of Christ” (3:8); and about the God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (3:20). Paul is not speaking here of having a logical, rational relationship with God. He talks about “the eyes of our heart” being enlightened. This is no academic pursuit, no theological construct. He is using the kind of language that you see in love letters, and says he has been overwhelmed with his lover’s characteristics and swept away with emotion. To paraphrase Buddy the Elf, he is saying, “I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!”

riches

Do you feel that way about God? Can you, like Buddy, run down the street and say that? There are two things that stand out to me among the smitten superlatives. One is that God has given us “the riches of his glorious inheritance”. We can only receive an inheritance if He has adopted us into his family, so that is awesome news! Adoption changes everything. So, how has being adopted changed your life? Have you stopped to consider the consequences of bearing a new name, having a new family, and being eligible for a big inheritance? Well, stop and consider it. Now. Seriously, stop and think about the fact that YOU have been adopted into GOD’S family!

Paul says that resurrection power is available to us, so whatever enabled Jesus to suffer unbelievable hardship, to persevere, and to endure the cross is available to us. I have to say honestly that I don’t really live in that power very often, I putt-putt around in my little world, doing my little things. But I’ve seen moments when God worked, and when His power transcended circumstances, and where I was able catch a glimpse of an eternity powered by the resurrection—moments of forgiveness, joy, and awe that confirmed, to paraphrase Hebrews 11:1, “the substance of the things I hoped for, and the reality of the things I have not yet seen… Embrace the resurrection, and enjoy your adoption today! It’s a very powerful thing!

The Riches of Inheritance

Birthright is a powerful thing that every family shares,
Preserving rights and privileges that cannot be co-opted.
It guarantees inheritance is passed to rightful heirs,
Not only to the born, but just as much to the adopted!
Orphans all, caught up in fallen time and random chance,
We dreamed about a family where we could play a part;
We looked at heaven’s Wedding feast and heaven’s glorious dance,
And felt the longing of belonging in a hopeful heart.
Then the Father called us to the feast! He said, “Come in,
And take your rightful places at the table by my side.
You are now my children: I have imputed every sin,
And you will join my Son not just as children, but a Bride.
The work He did upon the cross, the love we have ensures
That you are mine. My glorious inheritance is yours.”

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

It’s Mother’s Day Again

I was born on Mother’s Day, 1954. People always say “how sweet”, and I know in some ways it was, but I imagine it was something of an ordeal for my Mama. When we celebrate birthdays, we need to remember that our mom did all the work; we just showed up. (That’s why my favorite birthday greeting is “Way to go, YOUR MOM!”) But I digress… Every few years May the ninth falls on Mother’s Day, but it varies according to Leap Year. This year I am one day away, so I guess I will celebrate my birth along with all those amazing moms NEXT year…

When I was born in Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, my dad was off training to fly jets, and my mother was in San Antonio caring for my 19 month old sister waiting to have me. Her parents helped I’m sure, but it must have been a lonely and vulnerable time for her. Growing up, she told me numerous times how close to death I was at birth, how I had been saved for a reason.

Today, as I sit in my home office avoiding the Corona virus, I am still reflecting upon what that reason might be. I was an RH baby, which today is a relatively minor blood disorder that can be treated in utero. It was apparently pretty major 66 years ago. I almost died at birth. To save me, they had to literally replace my blood with hers and transfuse her blood into me. My Mama always said that they told her I wasn’t going to make it more than once, but that I pulled through only by a miracle.

I also had a double hernia, along with some other issues, and what it added up to was a long, long Mother’s Day for Myrl. (Probably a long several days.) She was energetic and spunky, though, and we made it. Myrl Jean Zuercher was born in Waco in 1932, and was adopted by Fay and Emmett Zuercher. Emmett worked for Maverick-Clarke, and Fay’s family were prosperous merchants who owned Staffel’s Feed Stores. They adopted and raised two girls: Connie, who died in a car wreck at a tragically young age, and my mama Myrl.

Mother's Day

She was cute and vivacious, a cheerleader who was named Football Sweetheart for the Alamo Heights mules. Years later she could still get into her cheerleading uniform. She was nick-named “Speedy” in high school, and I was always told it was because she drove fast, but I think it was more because she was kinda “fast” and liked to party. She was artistic and funny and cute as a button.

Perhaps because Mama struggled with alcoholism, particularly later in life (she died from liver failure/psirrhosis in 1984), I have probably focused over the years too much on her demons and issues, and I used to think that she perhaps didn’t love me because there were times I couldn’t depend on her. A ten year old brain often doesn’t see much context, and of course I assumed that because she wasn’t always around, and I lived at my grandparents sometimes that I was the problem, and had not been good enough to make Mama love me. But I know now that she loved me deeply, and that she loved me the very best that she could.

Up until several years ago, I had never really given her credit for the many wonderful things she brought to my life– love and family, laughter and personality. She was almost 53 when she died, not long after holding our first daughter, and she left us too soon. I used to resent having to share my birthday with Mother’s Day every few years, but now I know it’s an honor. This year I am sharing my birthday with Covid-19, and not actual Mother’s Day, but I am thinking of you, Mama, and will raise a glass of wine (yes, I have put those demons far behind) not just in your memory but in your honor.

Back in the day, when my dad was off flying jets and you were in the military hospital alone, you went through a lot of stress for me and because of me, and I am thankful. I am surrounded by beautiful, caring Moms in my family, and they are part of your legacy because they are part of my life. My sister is a loving mom and grandmother; my wife and daughters and daughter-in-law are wonderful, caring Moms who share your sense of fun and zest for life. I often feel your presence in them just as I also see it reflected back at me when I look in the mirror. I am so much like you, and I’m grateful for that. This Mother’s Day, may you rest as peacefully as the South Texas hill country, where birds sing, gentle breezes blow, and the pace is soothingly slow. I hope to see you again.

To all you wonderful Moms out there, happy Mother’s Day! May God bless you richly with love and laughter, and may your kids be as good as you taught them to be.

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

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

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

Perspired or Inspired?

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

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

canon

How Was the Canon Established?

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

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

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

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

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

Why Recognize the Canon?

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

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

Don’t Fire the Canon

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

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

Restoration for the Smitten Suitor and the Unfaithful Wife

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

A Surprising Vow

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

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

restoration

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

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

Loving Groom or Vengeful God?

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

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

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

Closer Than You Think

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

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

Sit a Little Closer to the Fire

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV)

This whole verse seems hopelessly out of date in some ways. It claims that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, when it seems like Christianity is less accepted and more under attack than it has been in years; it talks about reverence and awe when our culture enjoys coffee and flip flops in church (and we better be out of church in time for the big game); and it says that God is a consuming fire in a world full of consumers who buy temporary stuff and want instant gratification. It begs the question: if God is a consuming fire, who is being consumed?

Let’s go shopping in these verses and see what we can take home… 1) First, whenever you see a “Therefore” in Scripture, you should look back in the passage and see what it’s there for. The writer of Hebrews quoted Haggai 2:6, reminding a repressed and skeptical people that no matter what their political circumstances, God still had a covenant with them and was still going to exercise His will: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory…” The nations will be shaken, but not God’s plans. Remember what God has promised and take heart.

2) The writer of Hebrews says we should be thankful. All revival begins with thanksgiving, and all thanksgiving begins with the right transaction in your heart. Having a posture of thankfulness assumes humility before the giver and an attitude of gratitude. Do you feel the proper sense of humility before the Lord? Are you grateful for all He has done? Have you given thanks today?

3) Worshiping God should involve reverence and awe. What we wear to church doesn’t really matter, but when was the last time you truly experienced reverence and awe in worship? Step out of your timed church service boundaries and your concerns about where to go for lunch and allow yourself to be steeped in the majesty and splendor of an Almighty God. Remember that He loves you and is jealous for you. The writer of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” He is not a petty suitor jealous of someone else but a passionate lover who is jealous for you and your attention. He wants what is best for you and wants you to experience His love and goodness in an overwhelming way.

4) God is jealous for you in the way a mother is jealous for her child’s safety, and the same way a husband is jealous for his dying wife’s health. He is loving and possessive in the best kinds of ways, and we should remember that in our everyday lives. We should be consumed not because God demands it but because He wants to place us in the security and protection of His love and His presence.

fire

And finally, this: 5) If God is a consuming fire, then why are we not consumed? Is it He that is not hot enough or bright enough? Or is it that we just don’t WANT to be burned? Perhaps we selfishly reserve our passions for ourselves, refusing to be burned and thereby consumed. Consider this: if to avoid consumption, we stay away from the fire, then we also miss the warmth, the illumination, and ultimately the passion in being truly inflamed… Is God not warm enough? Bright enough? Perhaps you are sitting a bit too far from the fire…

Consuming Fire

Worshiping God assumes we're open to the things he cares for,
And look at what His Word proclaims to see just what it's there for.
Worship presupposes that we come to Him with gratitude,
Allowing Him to shape not just our service, but our attitude.
This Sunday, try to focus not on comfort or attire,
But let yourself be open to the passion and desire
That leads you to repentance as it lifts your spirit higher,
And lose yourself in worship in our God's consuming fire.

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

David Failed: So Why Would We Want to Have a Heart Like His?

David was called “a man after God’s own heart”. It seems impossible that such a flagrant sinner could love God, yet there it is. It hardly makes sense, but when I really think about it, they could say the same thing about me…

 

David Had a Heart Like His

Start with a boy, who, tending sheep,
Beneath the stars, too in love to sleep,
Looks up at the heavens' glistening art,
And comprehends the Creator's heart.

Least regarded, chosen King--
Transformed by a giant, a rock, a sling!
A man who gazed at God above, 
And understood. And fell in love.

Powerful warrior, loyal friend,
Head of the kingdom without end;
Poet, prophet, singer: Dance,
Caught in the grip of God's romance!

Love the Lord and love His word!
Let your songs and praise be heard,
Reaching countless human ears,
Timeless for a thousand years!

But O! That sword can cut two ways:
For those same lips that sang God's praise
Will kiss their way into a fall,
A story shown and know to all...

Scheming, lying, murderous lust;
Broken hearts and broken trust,
Written down for all to see,
Captured for eternity.

Deep your capacity to transgress!
But deeper, a longing to confess:
To bring your contrite, broken heart
Back to the Maker's matchless art.

Honest now, with no pretense,
No vain attempt at self-defense,
Broken as a consequence...
Confessing, teaching us that THIS
Is how to have a heart like His.

Matthew 22:37: “And Jesus said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…” In spite of all the despicable things he did, David loved God honestly and passionately. He’s not a role model because of the way he killed Goliath, or because of his valor in battle. We should pay attention to the way he acted when he failed utterly. If you haven’t been there, you will be. Consider David, and then consider yourself.

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

What I Did For Love…

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 12-16, NIV) Paul started this “love chapter” by exhorting us to be living sacrifices, and to follow Christ’s selfless example. Love, he says, is a great motivator. (Think about some of the things you have done because of love—whether foolish things to pursue romantic love or acts of service inspired by unselfish love—we have all acted differently at some point because of love’s motivational pull. Here are two very different examples: The summer I was 14 I was on the aquatics staff at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow in Kerrville, Texas. Hoping to meet girls, I put “HI THERE” with adhesive tape on my chest for about a week. When I removed the tape, my tan lines said HI THERE all by themselves for at least a couple of weeks. (Yeah it’s a dumb thing, but I was 14 and it did actually help break the ice with local girls a couple of times…) A few years later, I was on staff at the Navigators’ Eagle Lake Boys’ Camp in Colorado Springs. At the end of the summer, I donated a big portion of my salary to the camp (which, my Dad pointed out, was supposed to be my spending money at college that fall; when he had to replace it, it actually meant that HE had given the money to Eagle Lake. Sorry, Daddy.) Both of those actions were motivated by love in one form or another—one foolish, and one sublime—but both were done in hopes of having a different outcome than would have been achieved by standing pat. What are you doing differently today because of love? What outcome are you hoping for? Paul says here that love will help us overcome adverse circumstances. It enables us to view the world differently: to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I have to say I am ashamed at how often I am NOT patient in affliction or faithful in prayer. How about you? Love inspires generosity towards others, and it even helps us act differently towards those with whom we disagree. Do you bless those who persecute you, or do you curse them? If we are living sacrifices, Paul says, we will be empathetic and live in harmony with others. Burt Bacharach’s1965 pop song said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”… How true. There is too much division in our world and in our culture, and not enough blessing. Paul said a living sacrifice is not selfish or stuck up or conceited, but understands that all of us need love, and that it comes (at least partially) through us, to us. Be loving today. Make the same decision tomorrow.