Esther: The Beautiful Young Queen Who Risked It All

Do you like drama, intrigue, and plot twists? Then this story is for you! Esther was chosen to be Xerxes’ latest queen by winning a beauty contest. However, the Book of Esther reveals she was more than just another pretty face…

Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman, had been chosen by Xerxes to be Queen of Persia. The fact that she was Jewish was not known publicly. A pompous court official named Haman resented Esther’s uncle Mordecai because he refused to bow to him, so Haman obtained an order from Xerxes to have all of Mordecai’s people killed (not knowing that this death warrant would include the beautiful young Queen…).

After Esther was told about Haman’s evil scheme to kill all of the Jews, she had two options: she could hole up and stay incognito in the palace and take her chances that she might be spared because of her beauty and connections, or she could help Mordecai try to thwart Haman’s plan by going before Xerxes and bringing it to his attention. Of course, if Xerxes (being an all-powerful potentate) was in a bad mood, he could have ANYONE who approached him unbidden killed just for making an appearance. So, for Esther this was not an easy choice. She could ignore the plot, and perhaps survive if she was not identified as a Jew; or she could approach Xerxes and die at his whim.

Esther
Her uncle Mordecai laid this out before her in no uncertain terms: she could go before the King, but it could indeed cost her life. After giving the matter some consideration, she made her choice: “Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:15-16, NKJV).

By choosing to risk forfeiting her own life in going before Xerxes without permission, Esther became one of the great heroes of the Hebrew people, stepping out in faith to identify with them (and with God), rather than depending on mere worldly values to offer her protection. The young and beautiful queen voluntarily assumed the worst (a death sentence), so that by approaching the despotic king, she had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

We often do the opposite. We ignore our inevitable death sentence and try to hold on to something temporary rather than to embrace something eternal. Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jesus chose to die for every one of us; perhaps we will realize great reward if we each take the risk and choose to die for Him. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Good advice for Esther. Good advice for us.

Esther’s Courage

Xerxes ruled with random lust; his court approached with fear,
His whimsy might be cruel or just: and Haman held his ear.
Haman’s murderous, hateful heart was full of selfish pride,
Which turned against the man who worshipped Yahweh: Mordecai.
Haman lied to Xerxes, and his evil, twisted ruse
Convinced the King to grant the execution of the Jews.
Mordecai told Esther, then, of Haman’s vile plan,
Since her position in the court might thwart this evil man…
But if she came to Xerxes’ court from the harem where they kept her,
He might decline to see her with a gesture of his scepter,
And this declining gesture would mean death to good Queen Esther.
How could they escape this bind? How to change the monarch’s mind?
Approaching him, she just might find that her request would be declined.
Uncertain now, she wavered as she tried to count the cost;
Mordecai said, “Esther, if you don’t go, you’ll be lost—
God will save us either way, despite the turns and twists:
Who knows if you were put where you are for such a time as this?”
So Esther left the harem, and approached the Royal hall,
Willing to save her people by being willing to risk it all.

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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What the heck is a Sojourner, and Why did Nehemiah see Himself as One?

A sojourn is a temporary stay. I’m sure the Israelites who were carried off into captivity to Persia did not see it as their permanent home, but in all likelihood there were some who assimilated into Persian culture, who compromised with Persian lifestyle, and who adopted Persian values. Nehemiah was captive who rose to an important position in the Persian court, but he still saw himself as a Sojourner who was far from home, living behind enemy lines. He heard that Jerusalem was in ruins, and it disturbed him so much that he cried over the state of affairs back home. So here’s a question for you:

Where do you feel most at home? What Makes YOU Weep?

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:4-7, NIV)

Nehemiah was one of the Hebrew people who had been deported to Persia, and even though he had an important position, he saw himself as a sojourner in a foreign land…

sojourner

This passage describes Nehemiah’s response when he heard firsthand from his brother about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem. Apparently he was a passionate man, and the news of how citizens of Jerusalem lived in squalor and beset by enemies was very distressing to him.

Nehemiah was a great leader, and not just because he was passionate or organized or skillful. He was a great leader because his first response to hearing about the need in Jerusalem was to approach God with a humble and contrite heart, and to take ownership and responsibility for the situation. He apparently knew about God’s character and God’s promises, and he went before the Lord 1) praising Him for who He is, and 2) confessing his own sins, as well as those committed by his family and his people.

Even though Nehemiah had risen to an important role in Artaxerxes’ court (he was cupbearer to the king), he stayed humble, and didn’t get wrapped up in the material comfort of his position. Just imagine what it would be like to trade God’s blessing for material things, or to be distracted so much by a comfortable life among your enemies that you grew calloused to what blessings really are! (Hmmm does that sound familiar to us American Christians?) Nehemiah did not focus on the fact that he was an important man in his temporary local surroundings, but saw himself as a sojourner in a strange land. He remembered the truly important things: who his God was, and who Nehemiah really was. Probably a good idea for the rest of us temporary sojourners who sometimes forget what’s really important, and choose to live comfortably in our Enemy’s kingdom.

Nehemiah heard that things back home were not well kept;
When he heard that Jerusalem was broken down, he wept.
Although he was a sojourner, he served the Persian king,
And had the wealth and privilege that such appointments bring.
But Nehemiah could not eat or sleep; his thoughts would roam
To how oppressed and how distressed his people were at home.
So think of this: you live in Satan’s kingdom here on earth,
And you’re surrounded by the things that give his kingdom worth;
Will you remain here comfortably, imbedded soft and deep,
Or will you long for your true home, and look around, and weep?
Be careful what you value, and be careful where you stay,
For just like Nehemiah, you’ll be going home one day…

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

Israel built a temple and found it affected not only their religion, but also their JOY.
“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.” (Ezra 4:11-13, NIV).

joy

When the Israelites were able to return to build the temple, it was a moving experience. They had gotten permission from Cyrus to leave Babylon, and then created a plan and traveled back together all the way to Jerusalem. They performed exhausting manual labor with a sense of urgency: they were rebuilding God’s house! They worked together to clear away debris, and to move huge stones into place for the foundation. When it was laid, the older workers wept aloud, while the younger ones gave a great shout of praise that carried their joy into the heavens.

It was an exciting time for many whose lives had been torn apart, or who had lived their entire lives in exile, away from the homeland they dreamed of. They sang praises; they rejoiced with thanksgiving! As Ezra says, their emotion was so overwhelming that “no one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping” as people cried out, filling the air with emotional exclamation points. They were refreshed and excited, newly reminded of God’s goodness and love!

As you reflect on the emotion of this scene, ask yourself: what represents rebuilding God’s temple to you? What godly thing have you been missing in your life, which being restored would cause you to shout with joy? Is it a mountain top where you once rejoiced? Is it a place of service where you felt useful? A calling you have neglected to follow? I bet almost all of us have some special place in our relationship with God where we long for restoration, and for the chance to feel His love and goodness anew. Consider the possibility of making a plan, of enlisting friends and family to travel with you, and of returning to the place where you, too, would shout for joy! Or weep for joy. Or, just go into your prayer closet today and seek the Lord in the privacy of your own heart. I think God will meet you there either way.

Perhaps you, too have felt alone, with all your laughter stilled;
Perhaps you’ve been knocked down a peg, and needed to rebuild.
Go and seek the Lord. He can restore what has been taken,
And He’ll be your foundation whether all the world’s been shaken.
Stand before Him. Choose to sing, and lift to Him your voice!
Claim His promise to restore. Believe. Receive. Rejoice.

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
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Humble Prayer is Apparently the First Step in Being Healed. Step Out!

The surest way to succeed, our culture tells us, is to be accomplished. Athletes “make history”, and business people keep score by how much money they’ve made. Leaders want power, gangbangers want respect, and everyone dreams of being able to do whatever they want to do. The Bible has a different take on being great: It says if you want to achieve real greatness, start by being humble. If you’ve never considered that, you might be surprised at how much difference that makes in the long run.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). This is a pretty well-known verse from 2 Chronicles, which came from a dream Solomon had right after he had made sacrifices and dedicated the temple. God appeared to Solomon and reminded him how important proper worship was, and what God required of his people.

God’s word to Solomon was one of those “If—then” conditional statements that rely upon the fact that God’s character is consistent and unchanging. In this case, God is reminding Solomon (and us) that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. Since we are His children, that makes perfect sense. But what’s required of us? First of all, we have to be God’s people, the ones who are called by his name. We need to be in a relationship with God, one that is exhibited enough externally so that others know what we are about. Second, we have to humble ourselves. In a world full of ego this is an attitude that we don’t see very often today. (The Special Olympics might be a place where humanity comes close to exhibiting this virtue, but the world is far more calibrated to celebrating money, power and looks than it is to celebrating the efforts of humble people.)

humble

We are surrounded by so much ego that we think it’s right to puff ourselves up and to treat the universe as if we are at its center. We approach the Lord that way, too. We figure that if we’re a little bit sorry, and tell God He is Lord, then we’ve achieved humility. Back in the day, people tore their clothes, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, they wept and fasted, and they lay prostrate on the ground before the Lord. Quick check: when is the last time you humbled yourself and prayed like that? (That’s what I thought. Me neither…) Third, we need to seek God’s face. I think this implies not only seeing eye-to-eye, but being unhidden, open, and intimate with God. Face to face means seeing Him as He truly is, and realizing that He sees us as we really are, without masks or excuses or spin. Finally, He tells us to turn from our wicked ways. If enough of us humble ourselves and do this, He promises to forgive our sin and heal our land. What are your wicked ways? Do you think our land needs healing? Great news! God has already given us the prescription: when you turn from THEM, turn to HIM.

If my people, called by my name, will hear what I have to say,
And keep My word which they have heard, and come to me and pray;
If they will humble themselves, confess the wickedness they are in,
Then I will hear, and heal their land, and I’ll forgive their sin.
Come to me without delay– repentance must not wait–
For only through humility can you be truly great.

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

 

The Prayer of Jabez is Good. Here’s One I Like Even Better!

Do you remember The Prayer of Jabez,  the best-selling book from a few years ago? Let’s take another look at the man made famous for his prayer:

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NIV).

This little passage was the subject of Bruce Wilkinson’s book, “The Prayer of Jabez, Breaking Through to a Blessed Life”, back in 2000. Mr. Wilkinson’s work was embraced by many who agreed with him that praying this prayer devotedly and persistently would result in God’s blessings. Others criticized it because they said it focused on prosperity rather than on spiritual blessing, and prescribed rote, formulaic prayer rather than sincere, heart-felt prayer. Whatever your take on it, it is a well-written book that was quite popular, and got folks talking about the power of prayer.

Jabez

The book does a great job of encouraging us to be persistent in prayer and to claim Bible promises for our own, just as Jabez did in 1 Chronicles 4. Mr. Wilkinson did a great job sharing the story of Jabez and drawing some Biblical principles from it. I’ve given it some reflection as well, and here are my own observations about this passage:

1) Jabez is a sincere and honorable man, and he turns to God for blessing. I’d have to say that if everyone we met was sincere and honorable, the world would be a better place. But apparently then—as now—being honorable was the exception rather than the rule. Be the exception.

2) Jabez seemed to be motivated by the fact that his name meant “he makes sorrowful”, apparently or possibly because of the pain he caused his mother in childbirth. He didn’t name himself, but as he grew up he was constantly reminded that he had once been the source of pain… Parents, be careful what hurtful things you say to your kids, because there are things that stick with them. (I can remember some that were said to me, and I know there are lots of dumb or angry things I have said to my kids or my wife that I wish I could have back! Sorry guys, if anything I said gave you a negative message or memory. I really do love you a lot with my imperfect love!).

3) This isn’t necessarily a bad prayer, since Jabez asks for God’s hand to be on him, and to keep him from evil so that he would not cause (or have) pain. “And”, the Bible says, “God granted his request”. So there’s that. It’s a prayer that identified Jabez uniquely among his peers, and God answered it. It’s a good prayer, and probably one that all of us would make from time to time…

But when you break it down, the prayer of Jabez does seem perhaps a bit self-serving, and might just be a bit focused on personal benefit. (Bless ME. Keep your hand on MY territory. Let your hand be with ME. Keep ME from harm. Keep ME free from pain.) These are all legitimate requests to make of God, but there’s a different prayer in the Bible that also asks God for something, and it’s one I can relate to far better.

If I had to pick a Bible prayer that we should pray early and often, it’s not the one prayed by the arrogant Pharisee who stood in the Temple in Luke 18 and thanked God that he was more righteous than his fellow men; it’s the sincere, passionate one prayed by the humble, repentant tax collector as he beat his breast in anguish in Luke 18:13: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Now, THERE’s a prayer worth repeating! (And one that I can certainly relate to!) “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Try praying that one. I bet it will enlarge your territory.

Jabez was an honest man who went to God and prayed,
He asked for God’s protection in the petitions that he made.
Apparently he was honorable; and he was surely blessed.
The Bible says when Jabez prayed, God granted his request.
I guess I’m not like Jabez, since my prayer life is much thinner;
I’m much more like the man who said, “Be merciful to this sinner!”
You may have a different prayer you think of when you pray,
But when you kneel before your God, and find the words to say,
I hope you pray with love and passion every single day.

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

 

Passion is Underrated. Who Has So Much Passion You Would ask for a Double Portion of it?

Elijah was seasoned veteran, a prophet who had confronted Baal and defied the evil Queen Jezebel. He was full of power and passion. Elisha was his protégé, a younger man who was doing his internship with arguably the greatest prophet in Israel’s history. As Elijah’s time on earth drew to a close, he asked Elisha a question. (And when you stop and think about it, perhaps he asked ALL of us a question…)

“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” (2 Kings 2:9-10, NIV).

Elijah was a dynamic man of God who prophesied during the evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel, and Elisha was his protégé. As he followed and served under Elijah’s ministry, he saw amazing things. Elisha had seen his mentor rain fire upon the prophets of Baal and challenge a corrupt kingdom. Elijah’s passion for the Lord literally drove him into precarious situations, and he represented God in the midst of one of the most corrupt monarchies in Hebrew history.

passion

Elisha saw miracles and confrontations, but he also saw Elijah’s heart. He saw him when he was exhausted and vulnerable, subject to the pressures of being God’s prophet. When they knew that Elijah’s time on earth was nearing an end, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. It was an unusual request, but one that deserves a closer look.

I think it speaks volumes to us, and here’s why: 1) Elijah conducted himself in such a way that his follower wanted to emulate the spirit and passion with which he lived. That’s a pretty good legacy. Who is watching YOU, and what will you pass on to them?

2) Elisha demonstrated wisdom in asking not for advice, or material things, but for spirit. He wanted to inherit, not Elijah’s possessions, but his passion and his power. The stuff we leave behind is not important, but the spirit we leave behind will resonate far more in God’s economy.

3) Apparently, in order to inherit Elijah’s spirit, Elijah had to be with him and see him depart. You can imagine that he stayed close no matter what kind of pace the rugged Elijah set, or what kind of danger he might face. In fact, Elijah told Elisha three times to leave him, and Elisha refused. He was stubborn and persistent as he pursued God’s blessing. Are YOU?

4) If somebody got a double portion of YOUR spirit, how much would that benefit them? 5) Someone, today, whether you like it or not, is following you. What do they see? As you near the end of your time on earth, will they find your lifestyle so compelling that they ask to have it replicated in themselves?

Finally, 6) who do you know that exhibits passion and Spiritual wisdom? It might be worth your time to discover how they got to be that way. Be passionate. Pursue. Persist.

Life is important. It’s not about fashion,
It’s not about bank accounts you put your cash in,
But it’s about seeking God’s favor with passion.
Elisha was learning; Elijah was leading,
And knew that their moments together were fleeting,
So he asked Elisha, “Before I must go,
What thing would you ask me that you’d like to know?
Elisha said, “There is one thing I would ask:
No matter my role and no matter my task,
I need to climb up to your greatness- or near it,
So please make me full of your passion and spirit!
And please, if you can, and it’s not too much trouble,
I need lots of help, so please make that a double.”
So, clearly, Elisha was very inspired
And he made that request from a man he admired!
But my question is this: Friend, in all that you do,
Whose passion would you like invested in YOU?
Consider your future. Consider your task,
And who has the spirit for which you would ask?
Spend time with your friends who are loving and wise,
And you’ll find that their attitude helps you to rise!
And while you are at it, consider this, too:
Who’d ask for the spirit that they see in 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+Br

Solomon was Given a Mission, but the Temple didn’t Build Itself!

Solomon was given a Mission, ordained and blessed by the God of the universe. Since you’ve also been given a mission, perhaps it would be instructive to see what Solomon did!
“I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name…’ When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” … The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers.” (1 Kings 5:5-16, NIV)

Solomon mission

Wow, this was a pretty big construction project—as far as Israel was concerned, it was the biggest one of all time… God could have chosen David to build the temple, but he didn’t. Solomon was given a clear mission by God, and he went out committed vast amounts of resources, workers, and leaders to get it underway. He worked hard to fulfill his mission. It should be instructive to us that the Lord gave Solomon a job, and he then did everything he knew how to do to get it done. God could have just created a temple and set it right down in Jerusalem, but he gave that task to Solomon. The king could have waited for workers to appear miraculously, and for timber and stone to materialize, but he realized that God had put him where he was to have an impact on the world, and he applied himself to doing God’s work. He exercised his own wisdom and position in leveraging relationships and managing people, and he used all of his skill as king to serve God. He knew that he had been chosen by God to perform a task, and he believed that God had put him there to get it done. Here’s the point: Why are YOU where you are? What mission has God given you? How much have you committed your skill and resources to make it happen? We may not be building a temple, but we ARE a temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and we HAVE a mission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is something to be done that only you can do. The fabric of eternity is woven with millions of seemingly unrelated tasks that change the world for good, and not all of them get headlines. The small commissions matter just as much as the big ones in God’s economy, and He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. Jesus told us to love each other, to love “the least of these”, and even to love our enemies. Who will you love today? God has a job for each of us to do. What will He do through you? It only remains for you, in Paul’s words (Philippians 2:12-13), to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose.” Go. Fulfill.

God gave Solomon a mission: build a temple, fit for me;
Put it in the center of Jerusalem for all to see!
Solomon secured the workers, more than a hundred thousand men,
Working shifts in Lebanon to bring the cedars back again.
Everything was organized–the workers getting stone and wood,
And Solomon made certain they were doing everything they could.
See, God gave Solomon a mission, so he had to do his best;
He had lots to do, but this priority outstripped the rest.
No matter what transpired, he knew he had to get the Temple done:
God gave Solomon a mission–but he’s not the only one.
Jesus gave us all a mission, there in Matthew twenty eight:
“Go and make disciples. I am with you. Don’t procrastinate!”
God has given us the job of reaching out to every man;
I hope, like Solomon, that we are doing everything we can.

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

 

Nathan Accused King David of Being Evil. His Response Shocked Everyone

Nathan called David out for being a liar, an adulterer and a murderer. God called David “A Man After My Own Heart”.

Why do you think the Bible calls King David “a man after God’s own heart”? Certainly he was a great hero, a passionate, poetic lover of God, a courageous man, and a valiant leader; but he was also a scheming adulterer and murderer.

Nathan

So how do we best view God’s heart through the life of David? Was it written in his poems? Displayed in his desire to build the temple? Exemplified by his courage, or his material success? I think it’s in this passage: [Nathan said,] “The rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “YOU are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:4-7a).

When Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba, he did so by telling David a story about a poor man whose one cherished lamb was taken from him by a rich, selfish man who had many, but chose to steal from the poor man rather than to be content with his own abundance.

When David faced exposure in the midst of his court and under the public eye, he found himself at a crucial moment. He could have followed the normal instincts of an all-powerful king whose word was law. He could have used spin so that he didn’t look so bad. He had the choice to lie, distract and pontificate. He could have denied Nathan’s accusation and just have him killed; or… he could face truth and consequences.

I’ve always marveled that the great David, “a man after God’s own heart”, would still be known by that title after committing such evil (after all, he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed)—but I think it was his response here to Nathan that cemented his legacy. He didn’t posture in self-righteousness; he didn’t lie and cover up. He came to the pivotal transparent moment in his career and he told the truth: He ‘fessed up.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (Verse 13) It was this response, not David’s victory over Goliath or his greatness as a King that made David a man after God’s own heart. It was the fact that he knew who God was, he had the proper perspective, and even in his failure he came before the Lord in humility and repentance. We learn about God’s heart not from David’s greatness, but from his humility. When is the last time YOU said, “I have sinned against you, Lord”? Be humble. Be great.

David’s Turning Point

David, lover of the Lord
Was home alone–distracted, bored–
Contemplating sensual sin,
And felt its depth, and fell right in.

Deep his capacity to transgress!
But deeper still, a longing to confess:
To bring his broken, contrite 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.

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

 

Outward Appearances Don’t Matter: It’s What’s Inside that Counts

We live in the age of outward appearance, as consumers who hear the message others want us to hear and see the images they want us to see about products, news, celebrities, and politics. One series of commercials claims to use only “Real People. Not Actors”, although even a little research reveals that it did indeed use actors in some of the segments. (To their credit, they did always use real people–as opposed to fake people, I guess…) Our thoughts and opinions are constantly being influenced by people we don’t know, telling us things we can’t validate. We are perhaps the shallowest culture in history, celebrating people not for who they really are, but for who they appear to be. The Bible’s message is this: Don’t be Fooled by the outward appearance: It’s What’s Inside that Counts.

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7, NIV) Samuel, a prophet of God, was called upon to select Israel’s next king from among Jesse’s sons. He watched them parade before him one by one, and his first impression was that Eliab certainly looked like the one. He was big and nice looking.

outward

Samuel’s first reaction was to evaluate the young men based on how strong or kingly they looked, but the Lord told him that appearances can be deceiving. That’s so true, isn’t it? We often hear about situations with a celebrity that end badly, or see something on the news about a heinous crime committed by a seemingly ordinary person and think, “No way!” It’s hard for us to accept that a funny person was actually struggling with depression, or a pretty young wife and mom was killed by her husband (who is smiling beside her in all of the pictures), but it’s often the sad case.

As shallow human beings, we tend to look on the outward appearance, when the truth is on the inside… We can’t truly evaluate people based on what they look like publicly because that can be contrived, and it doesn’t show the whole picture, does it? Think about it: have you ever smiled and said something nice to somebody while you hid your dislike, or arrogance, or impatience? Was your outward appearance different than your inner motive? What we see in this world is limited; what God sees is not.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” It is in the heart that motives arise, and the way people look on the outside isn’t always the way they really are (think: Hollywood or American politics, sigh…). Old sayings exist for a reason,  and we’ve all heard that beauty is only skin deep. So is public image. In an age where we are bombarded with half-truths and insinuations, it’s very difficult to gain true understanding from shallow information.

Obviously, there are two ways for this to go: first, don’t be too quick to judge or evaluate others based on mere outward appearances. Who they seem to be may not be who they actually are. And second, remember that who YOU seem to be on the outside is not necessarily who you really are. Jesus challenged his followers to beware of what came out of the abundance of their hearts, and to be brutally honest with the Father. It’s logical to do business with God without any smokescreens, because He knows your heart anyway. Keep it real. Confess truthfully. Repent passionately. And follow the advice of Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.”

Look at a celebrity: you’ve probably seen them on TV,
Chased by paparazzi, fans, or sailing on their yacht.
Even if you’re not the type to fall for shallow marketing hype,
You cannot help but think perhaps they’re something that you’re not.
But although fame and money hide the truth of who they are, inside,
Divorces, drugs and suicide contaminate the dream:
If you are tempted to bow down to cultural icons of renown,
Consider that these people may just not be who they seem.
So when we stand before the throne to face our God all on our own,
We can’t rely on the money we made, or if we played a part.
We cannot take assurance from our external appearance,
For the Lord looks not on outward things; He looks upon our 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
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

 

Stubborn Love: We All Need It, and the Bible is Full of It

Sometimes the best kind of love is the stubborn kind. Stubborn love will throw its arms around the unlovable, the underdog, and the unlikely…and it won’t let go.
Orpah and Ruth were sisters from Moab who married two brothers, the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. Both brothers and Elimelech died, and the two younger women and their mother-in-law were all then widowed. Now, the prospects for a widow in that place and time were not good. The prospects for a widow with no children was even worse. Poverty was likely at best, and at worst women were subject to misuse if they had no one to protect them. Naomi had decided to leave Moab and go back to her own people and try to live out her days on their charity. In all likelihood, she would remain a lonely, heartbroken woman. The chances of finding a suitable husband for her younger daughter-in-laws was remote if they stayed with Naomi, so Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab and try to find a husband. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and left. “But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16, New King James)

stubborn

Ruth stubbornly refused to leave Naomi, and stayed by her side for a journey back to an unknown land and an uncertain future. There she got to work in dry, dusty fields alongside beggars and slaves, picking up scraps that the harvesters left behind. This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and yet it turns into an amazing story of redemption and hope when Ruth was noticed by Boaz, who bought the rights to both Ruth and Naomi to act as their kinsman-redeemer, marrying Ruth and reestablishing Naomi’s family name. Ruth’s stubborn love for Naomi seemed destined to force her into obscurity and poverty, but instead it opened doors and changed her life completely; and did you know it also changed Israel’s future, and sent ripples through the pond of time that have even touched you and me? As we discussed on Dec 6, Ruth had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. If you have ever been encouraged by a Psalm, then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. If you have ever profited from a Proverb (written by David’s son), then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. Her simple act of faithfulness to her mother-in-law turned into an eternal legacy. I have been the blessed recipient of stubborn love several times, including parents who never absolutely despaired, and an amazing wife who has loved me in spite of myself, and who never gave up on me. And, oh yeah, there was love so stubborn that a brutal whipping couldn’t stop it, the temptation to turn aside couldn’t end it, and a crucifixion couldn’t diminish it. May you, too, find stubborn love in the midst of a thoughtless, selfish world.

Naomi’s husband died, and then she lost her sons as well;
Her loss and grief were greater than she had the words to tell.
She told her dead sons’ widows both to leave her there behind,
So they could build a better life and find some peace of mind.
Orpah left. But Ruth said, “Mother, both of us will grieve.
But please, Naomi, in your grief, entreat me not to leave!
No matter what will come our way, there’s one thing you can know:
Wherever you stay, I’ll stay, and I will go wherever you go.
Our prospects are uncertain, and our future may be flawed,
But your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
Naomi realized then that Ruth just could not be got rid of,
And acquiesced to be blessed by Ruth’s stubborn, stubborn love.

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