Sex the way it Was Meant to Be: Fifty Shades of God

The Bible can be pretty Puritanical when it comes to sex. Does God hate sex? Or did He just have different intentions about its purpose?

“I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10, NIV)

In the Bible there are many warnings about indiscriminate sex, and prohibitions against all kinds of sexual activity. In our world today, there are those who call such values outdated, Puritanical, repressive, and even hateful. So why is there a book smack dab in the middle of the Bible that rejoices in sex, that celebrates intimacy between a man and a woman, and that sets Biblical prudishness back 3,000 years? Have you read the Song of Solomon lately? It’s a racy dialog between two lovers, whose intimacy is anticipated, sung about by friends, and broadcast across the pages of the Bible for all the world to read wherever Bibles are sold.

sex

From the way these lovers rejoice in blessed carnality, the way they adore each other’s bodies and feast among each other’s lilies, one might actually get the idea that the Creator created SEX! And that it can be guilt free, pleasurable, and downright HOT. There seems to be only one catch: it was designed to function best in a relationship between a husband and wife.

sex

People have been having other kinds of sex (and seemingly getting away with it) ever since man left the garden to live in a fallen world. If you look around today’s world, we are encouraged to have more kinds of sex than ever before. A partial list includes premarital, extramarital, same gender, swinging, wild, experimental, prostituted, BDSM, who-knows-what online, and all kinds of casual, temporary sexual activity.

All of these, we are told, provide pleasure and possible fulfillment. I’m sure that to some degree they do. And yet, somehow, there is a lot of hit and miss in those promises. Apart from temporary, transient pleasure, those activities can also result in low self-esteem, “the walk of shame”, humiliation, VD, or the abortion clinic, where the pleasure seems far away and the residue of lust seems lonely and incomplete.

Folks who have engaged in those pursuits often end up feeling used, broken-hearted, lonely, bitter, and empty. Guys try to make a clean getaway while girls wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” What if we asked the world to say, “Me too” if they’ve experienced that? We see couples on TV hooking up on almost every show we watch, and we hear about the promised thrills a lot—but not so much about the failed relationships, broken hearts, and the emptiness of the morning after…

Great sex, according to the Bible, is hottest when two lovers belong to each other. It has intimacy based on the fact that it represents the union between us and our creator; it has spiritual depth because it represents not only carnality and passion but caring and compassion. The Song of Solomon says that God wants lovers to have great sex—just not cheap, selfish, abusive, or temporary sex. You’d think the creator might know some secrets about the creation. I bet if you asked Him about kissing, He’d tell; He’d probably even write a little something down about it, and it would have way more than 50 shades. Read the manual, and you’ll know a lot more about how to drive the car…

Fifty Shades of God

Doesn't God hate sex? The Bible tells us not to do it,
Doesn't God prohibit sex and all that there is to it?
I've heard, when sex is talked about, that God is just tyrannical,
And that the Bible's stance on it is somewhat Puritanical...
And yet the Song of Solomon presents two smitten lovers
Who obviously enjoy themselves while underneath the covers!
It celebrates their intimacy in waves of carnal pleasure,
And God says that their love should be expressed in fullest measure!
They feast among the lilies, and they frolic in the glades,
Enjoying Godly intimacy in more than Fifty Shades!
When sex is blessed by God, it seems that nothing is forbidden;
When love unites the lovers, God says nothing must be hidden!
There is some ancient wisdom on it: go and take a look;
Just check with your Creator. After all, He wrote the book.

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

Chance May Be Random, But What Chance is there that You’ll Read This? YOU Decide.

Time and Chance might seem to have no place in a world ruled by a Sovereign God. Both Bible Scholars and skeptics believe in an either-or universe in which God has pre-ordained all things, and where determinism restricts the choices men may make about existence. The tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is a difficult thing to sort out, but surely God has a plan designed to accomplish His will which would override random events.

So why did the wisest man who ever lived say this:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

I have always been in awe of God’s majesty and omniscience, but I have often wondered about his sovereignty. What does God’s sovereignty mean to us in a practical sense, and do we really have any choice in this world? On one hand, I have heard it argued that there is nothing that happens outside of God’s plan, and that there is a sort of determinism about life: since God has foreknowledge, and knows everything in advance, then we really have no options and we are basically puppets dangling at the end of God’s strings. On the other hand, there are many things in scripture that suggest man was given will and the ability to make choices for a reason; there is cause and effect, there are consequences to actions—but it’s not always the outcome we think is logical or fair.

chance

I have always believed that God’s sovereignty is somehow big enough to allow for human choices without limiting His authority, or interfering with the outcome He desires. God’s perfect will allowed for Abraham to sleep with Hagar, and still somehow used the players in their faithless disobedience to fulfill His ultimate plan. God allowed Jacob to lie and steal the blessing from Esau, yet it all worked to fulfill the covenant. He permitted a harlot to betray her own people to save the spies in Jericho and become one of David’s ancestors. In each of these cases, people made their own decisions, committed sins, or followed seemingly unpredictable paths of choice and chance.

The universe is not simply an “either-or” situation between God’s will and man’s will. The Bible views them as a “both-and” scenario, where God is utterly sovereign and man takes his chances and makes his choices. There are many twists and turns throughout Scripture that seem disconnected from God’s will (or totally random, based on earthly factors), but they did not deter His will or prevent the outcome He had ordained. And then this verse from Ecclesiastes: “time and chance happen to them all.”

I believe that God allows for time and chance in a fallen world. If that is true, then He does not program us like automatons or dictate every action. Things are not always logical, and outcomes are not all predetermined. We act freely. We take our chances. Every eventuality exists under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty, and His foreknowledge does not limit our choices or dictate our decisions.

Sometimes the underdog wins. God allows for that. Sometimes humans exercise their will in business or athletics. God allows for that. And sometimes, in a fallen world, random things occur and accidents happen. Sometimes people pay for making stupid choices, or even pay for someone else’s stupid choices, and life is affected by time and chance. Ultimately, however, God is in control and we can have faith in a risen Lord in the middle of a fallen world. Are there things in life that seem unfair or impossible? Sometimes. Do those things ever circumvent God’s will? Never.

Chance or Choice?

If everything is prearranged, and history’s die is cast,
Then every action is ordained from the first one to the last.
The Lord is sovereign (heaven knows), and has a master plan–
So what remains within the province of the mortal man?
The Lord knows every man’s demise, and every sparrow’s fall,
But Solomon said Time and Chance still happen to us all.
So, is God in control, or do we have the right to choose?
If you gamble, bet on God. There’s no way you can lose…

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

Goliath Can Come At You From Anywhere; When He Does, There’s Only One Place to Turn

Goliath was one of a race of Giants who afflicted Israel. For years the Philistines had embarrassed Israel on the battlefield, and Goliath was certainly cut from that type of mold. Day after day he would patrol the front lines, taunting the Hebrew soldiers to come out and fight him. From out of nowhere, and without armor or military prowess, the young shepherd David killed Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and changed Israel’s history. What giants are you afflicted with? They can be anything bigger than you are, and they can even be of your own devising… David found that he was tested not by bigger giants on the battlefield, but by a level of selfishness and sin that almost destroyed him.

After failing greatly, and after being broken and utterly humbled, he prayed:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps 51:1-2). If you ever want to pray scripture, this is a pretty good verse to pick. For me, this plea from David is at the heart of the Psalms, and it is also at the heart of our world.

goliath

David triumphed over Goliath, but Goliath wasn’t the giant who ultimately brought David down. Like many of us, David’s greatest giants attacked him from within. His prayer in this verse goes to the heart of how David had to deal with the other giants in his life.

David wasn’t a great example because he was righteous or close to perfect; he was great because he understood his need to be forgiven. He couldn’t function as king without God’s grace. He couldn’t function as a man without forgiveness. God–the Righteous Judge–is also the only source of forgiveness in our world. David knew that mercy comes from unfailing love, and that love only comes from God.

God’s forgiveness manifests itself in grace, a transaction where someone gets forgiven, even when they don’t deserve it. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves…” It is grace that facilitates mercy, and it is mercy that we need. Think for a moment about how important forgiveness has been in your life, about how many times what seemed lost has been restored, and how many relationships, seemingly broken, were repaired by forgiveness.

What if there were NO grace? What if we just removed all grace from the world? What if nobody forgave anybody? How would you then feel about those who had wronged you or slighted you? Take away grace and how would you treat them? What giants would be unleashed in every human endeavor? How would you feel about yourself, if all of your transgressions remained on your conscience like an open wound? Who would you be?

The human world would literally tear itself apart without the grace and mercy that are required to interact every day. Of all the animals, man alone needs and exercises forgiveness, in both the very personal way of dealing with our own iniquity, and in the public way we need to forgive others and need to be forgiven by them. David knew all about that, and the way he threw himself humbly on God’s mercy is more of an example to us than how he handled Goliath. We all have giants to slay. We all need God to slay them.

David Found Grace

David fought Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts;
He did not fear the bluster in the giant’s prideful boasts.
He fought Goliath as he fought the lion and the bear,
With faith that God would shield him as an answer to his prayer.
Of all the battles that he fought, the hardest one to face
Was when he sinned, and had to call upon the Lord for grace.
His battles weren’t the worst of all the danger he was in:
The greatest danger David faced attacked him from within.
He begged the Lord for mercy, and the Lord forgave his sin.
But what if grace did not exist, and mercy never came?
Do you believe our broken world would ever be the same?
If grace had never happened, could you ever heal your heart?
What bitterness and jealousy would tear our world apart?
How much would ugliness prevail? What knives would evil twist
To cause malignant hate to spread– if grace did not exist?
Remember David’s anguished, heartfelt plea to God above:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, and give me your unfailing love.”
Remember this, regardless of the giants you must face;
What makes this lifetime altogether bearable is Grace.

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

If Blessing Means that Good Things Happen to us, What Then Does it Mean When Bad Things Happen?

It has to be a blessing when good things happen to us, right?
[Job said] “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:21-22, NIV). “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10, NIV).

The story of Job is full of things that are difficult to understand, much like life sometimes… Job was an upright, blameless man who loved God and shunned evil. Satan asked for and received permission to test Job’s love for God, claiming that Job only loved God because he was protected from misfortune. Satan then destroyed all that Job had, claiming not just his worldly goods but also the lives of his children as well.

Job’s 3 “friends” came around to counsel him, and they relied upon the conventional wisdom that said misfortune only happened to those who sinned. And really, don’t most of us think that we are somehow to blame for random bad things that happen to us? That there is some sort of vigilante justice loose in the universe, “karma” that brings evil upon those who commit evil? When something bad happens, don’t we cry out, “What have I done to deserve this?!” Job stubbornly refused to confess his sin (he actually was upright and blameless in this mess), and refused to blame God. Even his wife told him to “curse God, and die!” Yet he held on to his faith.

The story of Job is written primarily to countermand the idea that bad things happen only to those who do bad things, and the assumption that anyone who has suffered misfortune or impairment must have done something to deserve it. Now, yes, there is cause and effect, and yes, sometimes actions have consequences, but Job teaches that not every tragedy happens because we deserve it.

Evil can happen because we live in a fallen world where there is no guarantee of safety. Satan roams this world as a spiritual terrorist, randomly causing bad things to happen in the hope that he will disturb any notion of truth, faith or love that may exist. If the Great Deceiver can use tragedy (or even cause and effect) to get someone to blame God or deny Him, then the devil wins.

Destruction is Satan’s handiwork, and cynicism is Satan’s playground. Those things, along with self-righteousness and being judgmental, are the tools he uses to disrupt lives and destroy testimonies. But Job refused to be cynical, and he continued to honor the Lord. He did have to realize that he was not prosperous because of his own righteousness, and that we can’t manipulate blessing by being righteous. Even in his own earthly righteousness, Job had room to grow in his understanding about the Lord, and room to be honest with his God.

blessing

Job discovered that blessing was not in his self-righteousness, and not in his stuff. Blessing ONLY comes from a sovereign God, and our growth comes from acknowledging Who. He. Is. In 42:2 Job said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” There are perhaps in this universe things “too wonderful for us to know” at this point. We will certainly know them someday, but perhaps for now, simply knowing God IS the blessing. Once we figure that out, well then stuff is just stuff.

Curse? Or Blessing?

If you’re rich, you’re blessed up: that’s messed up,
You have to stay confessed up, just having yourself a full cup
Won’t stop you being stressed up.
People all want things from God, they just can’t get enough;
But what about when everything goes bad, and things are tough?
Stop and realize this: our blessings don’t depend on stuff.
People say “I’m blessed” if fame and fortune come to them,
But blessings don’t just come from God: the blessing, friend, is HIM.
Everything is His, and every part of every day:
God blesses us so we can give His blessings all away.
Our blessings are not stuff, but HIM. That’s all I have to say.

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

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).

Esther risked it all

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
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 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.

Living Behind Enemy Lines

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
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

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 entire sense of JOY. How joyful are you? In a world where everyone seeks happiness, its seems that sometimes pure joy is in short supply. Perhaps we can discover it in this passage:

“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.

Choose Joy

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 to Him, and lift 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
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

Abba’s Children

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7, NIV)

In the grand drama of the cosmos, man was created in God’s image to be share in all that God made. He created man as a member of the family, someone who could walk with Him daily and call Him Abba, the affectionate form of Father that most closely equates in our culture to “Daddy”. Vine’s says this about “Abba”: “Abba is an Aramaic word, found in Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. In the Gemara (a Rabbinical commentary on the Mishna, the traditional teaching of the Jews) it is stated that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title. “Abba” is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; “father” expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.”

Adam and Eve were his children, and the LORD was their Abba. Man was placed in the garden with a covenant that had one stipulation: do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve broke that covenant and were separated from all of God’s goodness. Like the prodigal son, they selfishly tried to take their inheritance early and ended up outside the family and far from home. Those who once walked daily with the Father now walked alone, and their actions brought a curse not only upon themselves but also upon the creation in which they labored.

Because of the curse of sin (self-will), the very fabric of existence was torn, and no amount of effort by mankind could repair it. The story of the Bible is the story of how God redeemed His children from the curse and adopted us back into His loving family. The curse resulted from the breaking of the covenant by men; so only a man could provide justice before a righteous God.

Sin was the deadly enemy of man, separating him from the Father and bringing death and corruption into the world. Only a redeemer untainted by sin could triumph over it. Because its wages are death, sin affected all of mankind both physically and spiritually. This passage from Galatians offers assurance and hope. First, it assures us that God has always had a plan, and that plan has always been bent on restoring us to His family. It says that God sent his Son at “the set time.” The appearance of Jesus was no accident, and he was sent by the Father.

Second, He was born of a woman, so that he might redeem those born of women. The problem with those born under the curse was they were not qualified to lift the curse. A Redeemer had to be untainted by the curse of sin in order to save those who were already condemned by it.

Third, He satisfied the law, so that he might save those cursed by the law. He provided not only a physical solution to sin, but a spiritual one as well. His words were not the random ramblings of a Jewish wise man, and his claims to be one with the Father were not blasphemy but fact. He was unique in all of history as being the one qualified to counteract the curse and mediate our adoption back into the Father’s family.

Because of Jesus Christ, we are all able to be God’s children once again, walking with Him and calling Him “Abba” (Daddy). Read the words of Jesus sometime and see how often he depended on his Father, talked with his Father, and walked with his Father. See the affection and intimacy Jesus had with “Abba”. When is the last time you loved on the Father, and talked to Him not as the Awesome God of the universe or as the somewhat intimidating Righteous Judge, but as your Daddy? I’m pretty sure he sent His Son so you could do just that. Crawl up into God’s spiritual lap today and sit there for a while. It’s what children do.

Abba's children
Abba's Children

Why would the Almighty God, the LORD, the great Creator,
Concern Himself with our mistakes? He could say, "See you later."
He could have started over with another cosmic plan
That had a better version of the beings we call Man...
He could have left us all behind. When all was said and done,
He didn't have to save the world or send His only Son!
And yet, he did. He paid the price to set his children free,
So we could all be heirs, and children in His family.
Crawl into your Father's lap, and let him hold you near;
Lean against his chest, and hear him whisper in your ear:
"Out of all creation, it is you that I hold dear,
And I have moved the cosmos just so I could have you here."

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