Victorious Outcomes Aren’t the Only Thing That Makes You Victorious

There is an amazing story in Daniel that illustrates vividly that outcomes are not everything. Daniel’s friends declared that you can be Victorious, Whether in Victory or Defeat…

victorious

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV).

Daniel’s three friends were put to the test. Since they refused to bow down to a golden idol, the king decreed that they were going to be thrown into a fiery furnace. This was their response, and it is the essence of true faith: “We believe God will deliver us, and we’ll stake our lives on Him, but even if he doesn’t deliver us from the fire, it’s ok. We still won’t bow down to any idol or give our worship to anyone less than God.”

I think their response is fascinating because it provides the key to living a victorious life. We often want our faith validated by the results we desire. If I ask for protection, but something bad still happens, then God failed to be victorious! He didn’t do what I asked Him to do! Perhaps then, I might reason, God is not worthy of my faith. If I ask for healing, and don’t get it, then I could say He failed to provide a miracle. I could see it as God’s failure to take care of me, and be angry because I assume that I know more about appropriate outcomes than He does. If I had cancer, and went into remission, is that a miracle? If it comes back, is that God’s fault?

Just what is it that makes me victorious? Perhaps the miracle is God’s abiding presence, or peace within the valley of the shadow itself… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego staked their lives on God; either He would deliver them from the fire, or He would deliver them by letting them be consumed in the fire. It certainly looks easy on paper, removed from the consequences, but to these men in that moment it was all or nothing, wasn’t it?

Either outcome was the Lord’s, and their faith was justified regardless of circumstances. If they lived, they lived BY faith. If they died, they would die IN faith. The Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) He also said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

victorious contentment

Next time we pray for a selfish outcome, perhaps instead we should ask God for the courage to believe him regardless of what the outcome might be. Find that place in your heart and you will be victorious in every circumstance. I think you’ll find true worship as well.

Does victory only happen when we triumph, or are glorious?
Or should we redefine just what it means to be victorious?
The God we serve can save us from the devil’s fiery furnace,
But even if He doesn’t, and our circumstances burn us,
We can find His peace, and still be comforted by this:
We are victorious not by winning, but because we’re 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

 

Hear the Word, Do the Word: Ezekiel’s Audiences Just Didn’t Get It!!

“He who has Ears to Hear” was a phrase Jesus used many times. Usually it meant that there are many people who hear sermons with their brains but never take them into their hearts. What you hear in the spiritual world often fails to be applied in the secular one. Amazing how much it still applies today.

“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NIV).

hear

Ezekiel’s sermons were well-crafted, like compellingly beautiful love songs sung beautifully and played with virtuosity. It must have been obvious to those who came to hear him that they were listening to the Word of God, skillfully presented to confront them and teach them with the truth. If he preached today, Ezekiel would be in a mega-church and would be heard by thousands.

Ezekiel was well-known, a prophet who had a long career bringing God’s Word to the people. His vivid description of Israel’s sin, betrayal, and impending judgment apparently made for good theatre, and he was the talk of the town for a while. People spoke about his sermons around the neighborhood, in the thoroughfares, and in the marketplace. He preached to packed houses, drawing big crowds who came to hear the messages. But his audience only gave his sermons lip service, and people failed to apply the word to their lives.

Can you imagine something like that? People who spoke of love but were really only concerned with greed and material things? Hearing a message from God and yet not changing where it counts– in your heart– and then masquerading as a believer in front of others? Going to church on Sunday but living differently the other days of the week? It must have been a problem men struggled with for a long time, because even in the New Testament, James said, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Well, the good news is, Ezekiel and James lived a long time ago! I’m sure glad that kind of stuff never happens anymore…

We go to church and we can’t wait
To hear a sermon that is great;
We worship, since that’s why we came
And walk back out the door, the same…
You can go to church and pray,
But it should change you every day;
So let me make this crystal clear:
If you have ears to hear, then hear,
If God’s word’s heard, and then applied,
You cannot stay the same inside.
If there’s a message that you’ve heard,
Then be a doer of the word.
Following Christ is more than talk:
So hear the word, and walk the walk.

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

 

New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war; the Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, He promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can seem like the only thing that is worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, be comforted by God’s inextinguishable light.”

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

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

 

Seek God. If You do, Jeremiah says He has Some Promises for YOU

When my Grandchildren come over we love to play “hide and seek”. There is something delightful about having someone looking for you, isn’t there? There’s a sense of anticipation during the search, and the screams of laughter when someone gets found.

As we read through every book in the Bible, here on Day 25 we find ourselves in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV).

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and he preached in a time of upheaval and conflict. He didn’t sugar-coat the word of God, and he didn’t just tell people what they wanted to hear. He was judged harshly by his audience. He was thrown into a muddy pit and ridiculed by all who passed by. He lived in difficult times, and predicted some terrible things ahead for Israel. In 1:14, he said, “calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land.” In 4:7, he predicted, “The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate.”

If you read through Jeremiah you might understand why his congregations wanted to throw him in a pit! His preaching was full of doom, gloom and disaster. But in the midst of his dire warnings about the coming judgment there is this comforting promise in 29:11, which speaks of hope and restoration. I have seen this verse quoted many times, and in fact it is displayed on a wall above the door to our garage, so we see it every time we go out.

seek

It is one of my favorites because it reveals the nurturing side of the Lord’s character, the one that focuses on love and redemption. God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. Just don’t forget to add verses 12 and 13. God’s promise is extended to those who call on Him and pray to Him. We are promised we will find God if we seek him with our WHOLE heart. This thought is echoed in Hebrews 11:6, which says that God is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Not feeling as close to God as you’d like? Seek Him. Call upon His name. Pray earnestly to the Lord. Don’t be half-hearted in your search. And what, pray tell, does he say will happen if you seek Him with your whole heart? You will find Him: BOOM!

Ever feel that’s God’s not real, or He is far away?
Does it seem your words don’t matter, sometimes, when you pray?
God says, “I have plans for you, and I will help you cope;
If you seek me, you will find that I’m the God of hope!
If you want to find me, here’s the way to make a start:
Come to me in faith, and look for me with all your heart!
You’ll discover all my love, for I have plans for you:
Plans to give you hope today, and for your future, too.”

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

 

Expectations Aren’t Always True: If God is Not Who You Expected, Maybe You Should Change Your Expectations

Expectations play a large role in our contentment and happiness. Have you ever met someone who did not turn out to be who you expected, and you were disappointed? Have you met someone who surprised you by exceeding your expectations? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it?

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).

expectations

I’ve wondered many times why my Jewish friends don’t see Jesus the same way I do. He was Jewish, and he came as Messiah, yet he was not who they expected. In a way, I totally understand, because we are all immersed in our own reality, and sometimes it’s impossible to see around our own perspective. At the time, under Roman occupation, the Jewish Leaders looked for revolutionary deliverance, and were hoping for political independence and freedom. Yet Jesus was not who they expected: he never got political, and didn’t seem to give a fig about overthrowing Rome.(Kind of ironic when you consider that Christianity played such a big role in ending the domination of the Roman empire…)

I’m sure the Jewish zealots who followed him were disappointed that he came as a suffering servant rather than as an earthly king. Apparently Jesus, who came to set up a spiritual kingdom through his suffering, did not meet their Messianic expectations, and they rejected the notion that he could be the One.

I once heard Bill Dial preach a really good sermon speculating that perhaps Judas betrayed Christ only to force his hand and start the revolution he thought was ultimately coming… He expected Jesus to rise up in power, not to be tried like a criminal. When that happened, Judas was devastated by the way things turned out because he expected a King instead of the cross. He missed Jesus’ true purpose as expressed here in Isaiah, and ended up hanging himself in grief and remorse.

Question: do we ever miss who God really is because we are hoping for something different? Is God’s response ever different than you expected? “Lord, bless me financially and I’ll believe you are real.” “Lord, heal me and I’ll know it’s you.” Can we be so wrapped up in our own presuppositions about who we’d LIKE Jesus to be that we miss who he IS? You know what they say about ASSUME… (When we do it, “it makes an ass out of u and me”).

So don’t put God in a box—expect to find Him in unexpected ways and places… And while you’re at it, set aside your assumptions about church. Enter church as a suffering servant rather than as a sanctified saint. Stop being judgmental about the judgmental. Look at the man who was pierced for our transgressions. For my money, he was the Messiah who came to deliver not just a kingdom in Israel from occupation, but all of us from enemy territory. But don’t take my word for it; get to know Jesus. Then decide for yourself.

In a world of independent rights, here’s a disturbing thought:
God is always WHO HE IS, whether you like it or not.
What if He turns out to be much more than you expected?
What if, on the Judgment Day, you stand there unprotected?
What if, in the Kingdom, we are standing there like fools,
Just wishing we had got to know the king of Kings who rules?
Perhaps you don’t believe in God; But what if He’s really there?
What’s his personality? And should you even care?
If you have never talked to God before, consider this:
It might be good to get to know him just the way He is.

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

 

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.

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….

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!
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.

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

 

The Heart of the Matter is that Your. Heart. Matters.

What goes into your heart matters. What comes out of it matters, too. For people who didn’t have EKG’s, cardiologists, or heart hospitals, the ancient Hebrew people were pretty wise about matters of the heart. Solomon in particular seemed to have a deep understanding of the way the heart functions, and his Book of Proverbs is full of references to it. With all of our technology, do you think we are any smarter about these matters than they were 3,000 years ago?

Take a look at a few of these Proverbs and tell me what you think:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV) “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, KJV) To the Hebrews, the heart was the center of a man’s being, the place where instinct, reason, emotion and will came together as the core of body, soul, and spirit. It was where he made decisions and created core values. Heart matters mattered to Solomon: Proverbs acknowledges it as the gateway for wisdom (2:10), and the place where understanding and God’s instruction could be stored and used (3:1, 6:21). Solomon saw the heart as central to a man’s commitment (3:5) and motivation (4:4). A teachable heart that is turned towards God’s wisdom brings both practical and spiritual rewards; a heart turned astray has other outcomes. A foolish heart will spurn good advice (5:12), act deceitfully (6:14), devise wicked schemes (6:18), be drawn into lust (6:25), and be willfully perverse (11:20) or unreasonably proud (16:5).

matters

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He also said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him.” (Mark 7:20, AMP) So, what comes out of your heart? One of the indicators is your vocabulary. (“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Luke 6:45) What are the first words out of your mouth when you are angry? Do your words heal or hurt? Do they help or hinder?

What do you think the things that come out of your mouth say about your heart? If you did a quick internal summary, how would you evaluate your heart? Is it well-tended, or is it a bit of a hot mess? Does it cuss or discuss? Is it a gateway for wisdom, or a repository for waste? Is it proud and self-centered, or is it open and teachable? If you take care of your heart, it will take care of you!

Jesus said that we are defiled not by what we do, but by what comes out of our hearts… Take an honest inventory of what has flowed into and out of your heart lately. Then remember what Solomon said. Look after your heart: everything you do flows from it.

You cannot see it, but it’s there, providing with every beat
The fuel to think, the means to care, the power to compete.
It shows resolve, or skips a beat, or sometimes feels a thrill–
While it contains the seat of instinct, intellect and will.
It is a place where body, soul, and spirit all reside;
It is a place where men can shine, or where they try to hide.
Solomon said it was a place where passion could be fired,
And that to keep it healthy, there was diligence required.
A foolish heart will do some things that just aren’t very nice;
It won’t subscribe to wisdom, and accept its good advice.
So guard your heart, since it is where a person’s measure is;
And watch what you put into it: It’s where your treasure is.

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. 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.

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