Imagine Yourself as an Image: How Does It Reflect on You?

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

You (as in all of you, as in mankind) are different than the animals. While we humanize many animals, and we marvel at their ability to mimic us and their instinct to interact with us socially, there is still one major difference between you and the beasts of the field. YOU are created in God’s image. Animals aren’t. So, what’s the big deal about that?

When you think about it, we humans are very image oriented. Primitive man worshipped images to the extent that God forbade such foolishness in specifically in the Ten Commandments. We spend a lot of thought and effort building or repairing our SELF image. At work they once gave all of us a copy of Marianne Williamson’s well-known quote about how we view ourselves:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Her words nibble around the edges of Genesis 1:27, but in a sense they fall short. They rightly encourage us to believe in ourselves because we are God’s children, but they limit us to the mere human part of our potential.

image reflection

Technically, an image does whatever the original does. It copies the characteristics of the original, and it is an exact reflection, having all of the appearance and likeness of the source. Therefore, as beings created in the image of God, we should reflect His nature, His character, and His characteristics. (Much like a mirror’s image reflects the real thing before it.)

As beings made in the image of God, we possess some evident characteristics that influence our longings and behavior. We have a love for beauty and an appreciation for creativity. We have a hunger for love and relationship. We are emotional, passionate beings who understand morality and aspire to wisdom and completion. We have many facets of God’s character reflected in our own.

But even though mankind was created in the image of the Father, things have changed. Man fell in sin and became captive to sinful impulses in a fallen world. The fallen world in turn distorts and clouds our understanding of God’s holiness and character. It’s sometimes hard to see God’s image in the actions and behavior of those around us (in fact we are selfish ourselves) and we feel distanced and separated from a Holy God. We all know from experience it is certainly possible to live much of your life without ever really reflecting the God-like qualities that reside in you.

So do some quick evaluation. Since this is about being an IMAGE, take a look at yourself in the mirror. You will see yourself looking back at you, and according to the Bible you are looking at someone made in the image of God.
What are some things about you that make you believe it’s true?
What are some things about you that make you think it’s not?
Don’t worry about your self-image. Enjoy being made in His. Reflect on THAT.

Life is not a practice or a scrimmage;
It’s more than building up a fallen image.
It’s not about what we project,
Or some illusion we protect,
Or our respect or disrespect,
But more about who we reflect!
Of all the animal kingdom, man
Alone of all the species, can
Engage in spirituality, and reflect on immortality
While he practices morality as a part of his reality.
Just go look into the mirror;
Look intently, see it clearer,
Reflection of the Trinity that stretches to infinity,
Defined by what the Bible stated
About the way you were created.
Don’t serve the world by playing small,
Or listen to the doubter’s call;
Let passion and His love enthrall,
And reflect the One who made us 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

Maybe the Best Thing About the Past is That It’s Actually a Present

If there is anything to be learned from history, it’s that we should learn from the past. George Santayana famously said, “Men who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So history can be educational, but there is another observation about the past that we should remember: we can’t live there…

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Brethren, I do not count myself yet to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ASV)

Because he followed a worthy goal, Paul left everything behind in pursuit of his new quest. He changed vocation, friends, goals and his future to follow Jesus. An important part of reaching his prize was being able to let go of the past, which creates an interesting question: If you’re a Christian, do you really forget the things you’ve left behind?

past

There are a couple of ways to look at that. We can easily get trapped by looking back in a somewhat unhealthy way, longing for un-spiritual things, and the fulfillment of old, unsavory appetites. Paul talks about that in Romans 7, where he expresses frustration over the fact that he does things that he doesn’t want to do, motivated by his own sinful nature. The pull of temporary, sinful desire can certainly derail us from loftier goals.

Paul challenges us to concentrate on where we are going, not on where we used to be. I think this is what Jesus meant in Luke 9:62, when he said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When you plow a field, you have to stay focused on a point out in front of where you are headed.

past plowing

If you want to plow a straight furrow, you have to focus on what’s ahead; otherwise you will get off-line and your rows will be crooked and useless for cultivation. Jesus knew that it was impossible to be fruitful and productive in the present while gazing back into the past. To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who choose to stay chained to the past will be doomed to repeat it.” Release yourself from old habits and patterns by focusing on new goals and opportunities!

The other mistake we often make about the past is that we fail to allow ourselves to grow beyond it. We repeat unkind messages to ourselves, we refuse to forgive ourselves, and we limit our potential based on feelings of unworthiness. In the Kingdom of God, those limitations are past. Remember that when God introduced Himself to Moses, he was “I AM”, not “I was”, or “I used to be”.

Do you see yourself the way God sees you? He’s not looking at your mistakes or failures, He sees you the way he intended you to be. He sees you complete and perfect, pristine and pure, and He has already forgotten your flaws and imperfection. Psalm 103:11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I can’t think of any better self-motivational message that we could tell ourselves each day.

If that’s not enough assurance, then read Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God removes our transgressions from us and remembers them no more. If HE is willing to forget your mistakes and move on, then So. Should. You.

There are some things from your past– you wish you could delete them,
Mistakes we all should learn from so that we do not repeat them!
Forgetting that which is behind, we strive to run the race
By reaching forth to what’s ahead, empowered now by grace.
We lay aside unneeded weight, and give the race our all,
As we pursue the prize extended by the Savior’s call!
Press on to the mark, and towards the finish set your eyes;
Don’t look back! Your race is forward, running for the prize.

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

He Was Rich and Became Poor. Seems Easy Until You Think About it

Super heroes are all the rage today, and they are making somebody rich with the millions of dollars they make. But whether they come from Marvel Avengers or Hollywood, they are a poor substitute for the REAL hero who performed the most heroic act of all time. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The complexity of this verse boggles the mind. What sort of riches did Christ possess in his position at the right hand of God? Surely the Lord of Lords and King of Kings had access to wealth we cannot begin to comprehend. According to Colossians 1:17, the entire cosmos is under his authority, and held together by His power, so it stands to reason that there are aspects of his riches we can’t begin to know.

We do know from John’s remarkable exposition on the Word that Jesus Christ existed in the beginning and was the creative force of God’s personality as the Word who spoke all things into existence. We also know that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) How glorious was that glory? How rich were his riches?

rich but poor

Just try to imagine what sort of splendor the Son left behind to become a mere man…We tend to measure wealth in terms of precious stones or metals, and we are impressed by opulence and ornate works of art. But consider the wealth that the Son of Man left behind for your sake:

1) He was rich in power. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God as the King of Kings and Lord of lords. Yet he left the most powerful position in the universe to be a vulnerable man; and not even a king or ruler, but a tiny, frail, and helpless infant. Instead of taking royal office, he became a servant, and humbled himself to become flesh in every way, even partaking of death on the cross…

2) He was rich in righteousness. He was the Holy One of God, the one who went 40 days toe to toe with the tempter but committed no sin; he alone was worthy to be presented without offense in the Father’s chamber of justice as the only one who could stand before the Father in purity and absorb the penalty for our sin. He didn’t have to, but he did it.

3) Jesus was rich in life. He was the guy people invited to weddings, the teacher everybody gathered to hear… He was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who created all things and spoke the world into existence. He was there when time began, when all things were formed and sprang forth from his creative Word. He certainly understood what eternal life meant and how awesome it was, and yet He was willing to give up that life and taste death on our behalf. Through his poverty we became rich. It is amazing to consider how Jesus became poor for our sakes.

We tend to think, “Well it was just for a short time, he knew he’d go back to all of that heavenly glory and reign on high”, but I will always maintain that since it had never been done before, the outcome held some manner of risk for the Son… what if the whole universe had unraveled when the Word left His throne and gave up His eternal riches and glory? Whatever the odds, we do know this: he left his perfection in eternity past to enter a world full of sin and death. It’s an amazing sacrifice when you consider what Christ left behind.

To me, it becomes even more amazing when you turn the lens around and look at that the other way, from our poverty:
1) We were selfish and grasping at control, and yet we were served by the Lord of lords.

2) We were sinful and condemned, and yet we were made righteous by Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.

3) We were dead in our sins, deceitful and carnal, and yet we were shown the way, the truth, and were given eternal life. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” It’s not just about what Jesus gave UP, but it’s also about what he gave US. He traded his riches for poverty, so that we could leave our poverty for his riches.

There was talk among the angels, all about the king of Kings;
They heard that he was going down to earth, with all that brings…
“Surely he will not give up his place upon the throne!
Surely he will not go down to Satan’s lair, alone!”
Then they watched the Son of God submit to life on earth;
They took the word to Mary, and they watched the virgin birth!
As Jesus grew, they watched him, and the angels held their breath
While the Christ fulfilled his mission in a world of sin and death!
The angels shuddered inwardly to see him leave his glory,
Amazed at what he sacrificed to change creation’s story.
Jesus came to earth to pay our ransom, after which
He took our poverty upon Himself–and made us rich.
Savior, King of Glory, Risen Lord and Great “I AM”!
Who in heaven knew you’d be the sacrificial lamb?
Angels wondered why you left–they knew you could have stayed–
You who took our poverty for your riches in a trade,
Make us ever mindful of the sacrifice you made.

 

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

Gifts: Perhaps the Best Gift Ever Was Given on the Worst Day Ever

Everybody likes getting gifts! (Well, yeah, there are the bunny pajamas in A Christmas Story, but all of us like getting something to unwrap). Jesus had this to say about gifts, so let’s unwrap it together, shall we? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11 ASV)

There are a couple of thoughts that jump out of this verse. First of all, if you are a parent or grandparent (or an Aunt or Uncle, or a passionate pet owner who loves a furry family member!) think about how much you love your child. I mean, stop and think about that. You picture them fondly in your mind. They have traits that endear them to you. You love them!

gifts for dad

Over the course of a lifetime, there are numerous gifts that you give them, whether it’s at Christmas or birthdays, a wedding or graduation, or even when teeth fall out…There are countless small sacrifices you make, from giving them the last piece of cake, to going without that new car or washing machine in order to pay tuition. There is the gift of time, the many gifts of teaching them to eat with a spoon, to use a potty, to ride a bicycle, to read, to imagine, and to dream. Have you ever stopped to think that when God calls us His children, He thinks about us in all of those same ways?

Perhaps because we see God as omnipotent and self-sufficient, we tend to minimize the idea that He really actually sacrificed anything to give us gifts. After all, He is GOD. But when you start with the cross, the very real weight of God’s Fatherly love for us should surround us like a hug. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son…” It surely cost the Living God dearly (in ways we cannot fathom) to suffer the separation of sin and condemnation in our place, and to experience the death that was meant for us. Real death. Real cost. Real Grace.

There are countless other ways that God’s gifts to us must cost Him something. Imagine what it’s like to be omnipotent. Now imagine God giving free will to his wayward kids. He didn’t HAVE to; he could have created beings without choice, without the option to reject you or hate Him. But instead He created potentially disobedient, willful, deceitful, selfish beings who pursue false and lesser gods. Throughout every generation of men, God has dealt with children who ignore his gifts while they play with the paper and the trash…Has God quit being passionate? Stopped being jealous? Is He sitting in heaven watching us on cosmic TV eating popcorn, the wheels set in motion as He passively watches our rebellion play itself out? NO!!

He is our Father, still loving us, giving us daily gifts of love and wisdom and comfort and possibility. Our Father in heaven is engaged with us DAILY, just as we should be engaged with Him. And His gifts are incessant, immeasurable, constant, and real—even when most of us ignore most of them most of the time. Oh sure, we acknowledge mountains and flowers and sunsets from time to time, but we take so many things for granted, things like breathing and family and relationships, like our capacity to experience love, and peace and joy…All of those things are gifts that God gives us because He is our Father, gifts that we fail to recognize or appreciate. Over the course of a lifetime, God has given you many gifts. Have you opened them? Do you appreciate them?

gifts from God

Secondly, let’s talk about the nature of God’s gifts a little bit. I have sometimes thought, “Wait a minute! God doesn’t always give me what I ask for! I’m having some rough times, and life isn’t always easy or smooth. Maybe God has withheld his gifts from me.” Then it occurred to me. Perhaps God’s economy in giving gifts is different than mine…

Maybe a trial that stretches me is actually a better gift than something that gives me temporary satisfaction. Maybe difficulties that call me to seek God ARE the gifts that he is actually giving me while I sit around waiting for some reward, or comfort, or beneficial circumstance. Maybe the ultimate gift, other than grace, is the Father’s comforting presence when bad things happen. Perhaps the bad thing is the good gift. That kinda makes sense. After all, the worst thing ever for God was the best gift ever for me.

I look around my world and see
The things which God has given me,
From mountains’ grandeur on the heights,
To stars that bathe the sky at night.
A thousand countless gifts each hour:
The delicate beauty of a flower,
The marvelous canvas of the sun
Who paints the sky when day is done.
The glorious leaves that turn each fall!
Amazing presents, great and small,
So many, I can’t count them all!
Yet God gave me capacity
To see them, or choose not to see…
Just look around. What do you see?
If you can’t feel His presence,
Start by looking at His presents.

 

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

From Publican to Apostle: the Scandalous Invitation That Shocked the Whole Nation

The Gospel of Mark recorded a scandalous invitation which must have shocked everyone who heard about it: “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” (Mark 2:14 ASV)

On the surface this verse doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but there are several things that make it noteworthy. First, look at Levi the son of Alphaeus. He is known to us as Matthew, who was probably the brother of another apostle, James the son of Alphaeus (who was known as James “the less” to differentiate him from James the son of Zebedee). He was identified as a publican or tax collector, and was sitting in the toll booth extracting fees from his fellow Israelites when Jesus called him.

Matthew was not the kind of guy who would have received an invitation to any of the church socials at the local synagogue… Nobody in Jewish society liked the guys sitting in the tax booths! Because they worked for the Romans, tax collectors were among the most despised of all Hebrews. In Luke 18, when Jesus compares the self-righteousness of a Pharisee’s prayer to the lowest sort of man imaginable, he picks someone who all of his Jewish listeners would have agreed was the worst kind of human: a tax collector.

scandalous invitation

That’s exactly how a good Jewish citizen would have thought of Levi, sitting there in the toll booth collecting taxes—and yet that’s who Jesus called and gave an invitation to follow him. By calling Matthew, he demonstrated that his followers don’t have to be perfect; in fact they can be FAR LESS than perfect…

So Jesus called this tax collector to be a disciple, but understand that Matthew made good money and had a lot of friends; they just weren’t the kind of folks acceptable in the local churches. When Matthew throws a party for Jesus (Matthew 9), the Pharisees are quick to condemn Jesus for hanging out with “tax collectors and sinners”, since in their eyes those people were one and the same.

The calling of Matthew tells us that there is often more to someone than meets the eye, that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge, and that Jesus did not call his followers based on status, position, or religiosity. He calls anyone and everyone who will repent and follow him. His startling recruitment of a lowly publican sent shock waves through the Jewish world; it also ultimately gave us the book of Matthew, a historic work of epic proportions.

The second noteworthy thing in this verse has to do with Matthew and his response to Jesus’ invitation. As a tax collector, he was probably wealthy. He lived in a nice house, and apart from the social ostracism he endured, probably had a pretty nice life from a material point of view. The latest fashion, lots of parties and plenty of friends. He had running water, a patio with a view, a nice car, a 70” HDTV, and a good sound system. (Ok I am probably stretching a little here). But leaving his job to follow Jesus, (a relative newcomer who was really not connected with the powers that be in Jerusalem), meant that Matthew had to leave his wealth and security to answer Jesus’ call.

Now think about this: This was BEFORE everything about Jesus had been revealed, before everyone knew who Jesus really was, and Levi (Matthew) the tax collector just up and left his job to go with him… He didn’t yet have proof about Jesus being the Son of God, but he saw potential, and he responded immediately to the invitation.

What if Jesus asked you today to leave your high paying job and your future and your place in society to follow him? What would you think? Do you see potential? What if Jesus gave YOU the invitation: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”? (Matthew 16:24)

Guess what? He already has…

The Jewish world was shocked to find
That Jesus must have lost his mind,
Or deviated from the truth by calling Matthew from his booth!
Why, such a man was less than scum!
A traitorous, tax-collecting bum
Who helped the Romans get their tax. Why, such a man deserved the axe!
Yet Matthew went and shocked them all
By stepping out to Jesus’ call,
And leaving all his worldly wealth to go pursue his spiritual health.
He threw a party for his friends
To join a world that never ends!
But Matthew followed Christ. And look! We have his really awesome book
That helps us understand and see
“Take up your cross and follow me.”
Jesus called Matthew on the way;
He’s calling you and me today.
When he calls you: what will you 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

Earthly Wisdom is One Thing, and Heavenly Wisdom Is Another

There are things that are earthly and things that are heavenly. James says wisdom is that way, and he describes heavenly wisdom like this: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17 NIV)

There are different kinds of smart. There is book-smart, street-smart, people smart, and then there is smart-aleck or smarting off. Well, in the same way there are different kinds of wisdom, and different outcomes from each kind. You could technically make the case that all True Wisdom (with a capital W) comes from the ruler of heaven, and all earthly wisdom (with a little w) comes from the ruler of that other place. (Kinda like the difference between a “wise man” and a “wise guy”).

If you think about it, there are a lot of different kinds of earthly wisdom. There is cunning wisdom that manipulates the facts and sounds logical even when it is false. Our media and politics are filled with this kind to the point that we are sick and tired of it. There is shrewd, self-serving wisdom; this type is not always flashy or in your face, but those who possess it maneuver well in business, are able to evaluate things and make the right moves so that they come out ahead. There is the narcissistic, “look how much I know” wisdom; this type often dominates conversation and drops facts to demonstrate that they know more than you do. There is condescending academic wisdom, the kind that delights in subject mastery and putting naïve students in their place. There is a “my mind’s made up” kind of wisdom, that has investigated, arrived at a position, and will not be swayed.

earthly wisdom

There is the type A “I’m always right” wisdom. (Say! Have you ever noticed that the ONLY people who ever proclaim their personality type are ALWAYS “type A”? No one ever says, “Well you know, I’m a type C personality”. I think whoever invented that classification system must have been the more assertive type and naturally wanted their classification to be “A”, the FIRST letter in the alphabet… I probably just made a bunch of type A people mad, but it’s ok because I’m like a type C personality. Or D, I forget…)

But it seems that a lot of earthly forms of astuteness are somewhat self-serving or driven by ego (like I just did there with type A), as opposed to the heavenly kind. I’m not saying that such people are not wise—they are—but that there’s a difference between earthly wisdom and the kind that comes from God.

James says the kind that comes from heaven is pure. It is not tainted by selfish motives or coupled to ambition. It is peace-loving and considerate. It is not aggressive but is submissive, using the Greek term that means gentleness, indicating controlled power—so even when it yields to others it is not submissively weak and ineffectual. James builds much of his letter around this important concept, and it is hard to underestimate how important humility is in the Christian life.

In modern times, the three most important things in real estate are said to be “location, location, and location.” Augustine perhaps originated this logic when writing about being a Christian long ago: “When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, `Delivery’; what was the second rule, `Delivery’; what was the third rule, `Delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, `Humility’ ” (Institutes 2. 2. 11).

Godly wisdom is humble. True heavenly wisdom doesn’t raise its hand and call attention to itself like earthly wisdom does, but it gets our attention when we hear it. It is not only humble but also merciful, impartial, and sincere. The next time someone impresses you as wise, place their wisdom alongside this verse; you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if it is heavenly wisdom–or if it came from that other place.

Earthly wisdom knows just how to scheme or to connive,
To help the folks who have it stay alive, and even thrive!
Wisdom that’s direct from heaven has a different lure;
It offers answers from a source that’s sanctified and pure.
Such wisdom is considerate, submissive and sincere;
It loves the peace, and offers mercy when it’s needed here.
True Wisdom doesn’t come to you because you think you’re smart,
But it will bear much fruit when it is hidden in your heart.
If you long for wisdom, then it’s not too late for you:
Ask the Lord some to give you some in everything you do.

 

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

It’s What’s Inside That Counts: Keep Your Heart With All Diligence

Hank Williams knew that it’s what’s inside that counts, because he said that when it comes to broken promises, “Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…” The Bible talks about it this way: Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ASV)

The Hebrew people had a highly developed view of the heart, and believed it to be central to intellect, emotion, and will. They recognized that we have a spiritual imperative inside of us which separates us from all other animals, and that the heart is not just a blood-pumping organ– it is the center of a person’s body and soul.

Samuel told Jesse that the Lord chose David to be king (instead of his older, seemingly more attractive brothers) using a different criteria than we use. Even though men could be swayed by outward appearance, the Lord could see David’s inner desires, thoughts and motives, and He made his selection based on what was INSIDE, not what was on the outside…

Jesus certainly viewed the heart as the place where man’s moral compass resided, and he warned that external actions were not as dangerous as internal motives: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:19-20, NIV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

inside heart

The reason that men don’t demonstrate greater nobility or higher values is that we are more naturally inclined to be selfish and deceitful than to be godly. If you don’t believe that, just drive in traffic or watch the local news… The selfish, carnal heart must be awakened by the Spirit of God to rise above its basest desires; and the undeveloped heart will only produce what it is equipped to produce.

The fact that we need to keep our hearts diligently also implies that they may be unkempt; and unattended hearts, the Bible says, are proud, deceitful, vengeful, and full of bitter schemes and language. Cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain might just be colorful vocabulary, but a potty mouth can also reflect that there’s a sewage backup problem further inside. Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

inside matters

How is your heart? Are you diligent in keeping it secure and strong? Is it, as the Bible characterizes well-tended hearts, humble, loving, full and glad? If you wonder, then do a quick inventory of what you say, and how you spend your time and money: “for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ASV)

Keep your heart with diligence; it governs what you say,
And from it come the actions you engage in every day.
Our human inclinations tend to lead us far astray,
Surrendering to tempting things that often come our way.
Jeremiah said from common folks to lofty kings,
The heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things.
Jesus warned that we are not defiled by Satan’s darts,
But by the wickedness we carry in our selfish hearts.
As you take inventory of your heart, remember this:
Whatever most your heart desires is 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

Why Doesn’t God Offer Indisputable Proof? Why Does He Require Faith Instead?

Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks more about FAITH than about PROOF?? “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV)

Faith doesn’t require proof, validation, satisfaction, victory or blessing. It is in ITSELF these things, and offers complete comfort and peace to those who exercise it. But I have always thought Christianity would be a lot easier if there was “God-in-a-box”. I’m talking about empirical proof that you could carry around and just show people.

Think about how easy evangelism would be. You’re sharing the good news with someone, and they say, “I’m just not sure I believe all that stuff”. Well, you open up “God-in-a-box” and SHOW them, and they’d have to say, “Oh, I see now. You’ve got God, right there. I guess I have to believe.” Scientists could analyze it and find conclusively that yes, indeed, God exists. No more arguments about who God is, or what God is like. No more atheists. If we just had “God-in-a-box”, the world would be 100% converted in whatever time it took for everybody to see the proof.

proof

Kind of a silly thought, I know, but also a fascinating one. Why is it that we can’t just PROVE the existence and nature of God in an irrefutable way? How come the Lord of the universe set things up in a way that allows for so much interpretation and ambiguity? Put simply, I look at it like this: God requires faith so that we have a choice. God could have given us undeniable proof and created us as automatons who are programmed to follow His every whim, but He didn’t. He created a universe in which we have free will to the fullest extent possible, where we could even choose to perceive him or believe him—or not.

By definition, if you could PROVE the existence of God, there would be no need for faith, and no real possibility for us to love Him of our own accord. Only by allowing us to reject Him did he give us the power to accept Him. He grants us the ability to have faith so that we can truly experience love.

Second, God allows faith so that we have a journey. As God has revealed himself and men have responded, there are thousands and thousands of stories about changed lives and new directions. Abram left Ur to go to the place God would show him; Moses led a nation out of slavery; Paul did a 180 on the road to Damascus; and more recently, Brian Welch, Albert Pujols, Eric Metaxas, and many others speak movingly about their faith in God and their new direction on the website I AM SECOND (iamsecond.com). The changes in these many lives are fueled by faith which provided a platform from which to embark on a new journey in life.

proof

Finally, God gives faith so that we can live out a dream. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith enables us to take evidence and convert it to hope. It empowers us to take hope and convert it to action. True faith ALWAYS results in action (see James Chapter 2). There is no such thing as passive faith. It’s like the old expression, “put your money where your mouth is.” If you really believe something you won’t just talk about it, you’ll invest in it with your time and resources.

A person of faith will think differently, act differently, and dream differently. It might be surprising, but I’ve never really been a big “pie in the sky when you die by-and-by” kind of guy. I have always thought that the greatest thing about eternal life is how it performs TODAY. You may say, “This God stuff is silly. We die and that’s it.” You might be right. So then, even if I’m 100% wrong, and we both end up in the grave, what did I lose? I still gained comfort, wisdom, and a quality of life I never dreamed possible. But if the faith I place in God is justified, and I’m right, then, WOW! What did I gain? If you ever stop and think of what heaven could be like, it is mind–bending. And it would be a shame to miss an eternity filled with God’s glory just because you were waiting for more evidence.

Somewhere, sometime along the way, God has revealed Himself to you. He has given you glimpses of His creativity, his character, his Word, and his impact on others. But He will never PROVE himself to you. He is waiting for you to step out in faith, and Hebrews says He is waiting to reward you if you diligently seek Him. Believe it. Bet on it.

God did not make robots who could not think on their own,
But men who had to find their way to Him by faith alone…
Sure, He could have forced mankind to find Him and accept Him;
He could have offered iron-clad proof so no one could reject Him.
Instead of proof, He gave us all the privilege to believe,
To come to him by Faith, based on the evidence we receive.
Many may ignore Him; there are times when no one sees Him;
Just don’t forget: without Faith, it’s impossible to please Him.

 

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

Shine: When the World Around You Seems Dark, Be a Glowing Alternative

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)

Do you ever grumble? Argue? Does it do any good? We live in a society characterized by grumbling and arguing. We run into it everywhere we go! Whether it’s on social media or in conversation, people are ready to do either or both.

It seems that every topic in our culture creates polarity and division. People loudly complain that they’ve been offended. Debate almost always seems to get personal rather than productive; and small-minded, selfish people grumble about everything, hoping to pull happier people into their discontent. There’s an old saying: “Misery loves company.” Look around and you’ll see how true that is.

Most miserable people want to pull others down rather than lift them up. From ugly comments about leaders to self-serving political media, from the promoting of racial division to “religious” extremism that calls for the deaths of its opponents, the grumbling and arguing in our world are spiraling towards something worse. Everywhere you look, there are warped and crooked people driving events towards more bad news.

Perhaps followers of Jesus are supposed to stand apart from the ugliness, to offer encouragement rather than criticism. What if more people spread love rather than hate, gave forgiveness rather than criticism, and offered contentment instead of contention? Paul says that God’s children are meant to shine as lights in the darkening sky. (Hmm, very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”)

A child in Elizabethan London was looking out the window in the gloomy dusk, watching a worker far down the street come towards them, lighting the new gas streetlights one by one as he came closer through the foggy night. The child exclaimed, “Mummy, come quick! Look! There’s a man outside punching holes in the darkness!” As I look around this world, it sometimes seems to me that it is darker than I remember, that the night is hastening. Perhaps it is time for all of us to shine, and to punch some holes in the darkness.

shine

The world will not gravitate naturally towards unity. It never has before, and it won’t start now. Selfish men, motivated by a carnal spirit and spurred on by the grumblers and the haters, will always point their generation down a warped and crooked road.

Paul says that the only way to bring light to the darkness, the only alternative to living in a twisted reality is to “hold firmly to the Word of Life”. If Christians don’t do it, who will? Become familiar with the Word of Life. Let your light shine in the gathering gloom. Serve others. Reach out to the marginalized. Live without bigotry. Do what Jesus told us to do: love one another. Get out there and punch some holes in the darkness. Shine.

The London night was damp and cold as dusk began to fall;
Mollie, looking out her window, couldn’t see at all.
She sat there in the living room and quietly watched the gathering gloom,
While twilight bathed the Promenade and turned the world from light to shade.
But magically, and suddenly, a light appeared that she could see,
A sudden glow way down the street that shone with radiance soft and sweet.
And then another spot of light, just nearer now, and glowing bright–
A halo in the cold and damp atop the gas-lit street-side lamp.
One by one the lamps were lit. The night gave way a little bit,
While Mollie, looking through the glass, was wondering how this came to pass.
And then she saw him as he came, the street-lamp man who lit each flame,
Stopping on the avenue where she could see the Park less…
She called out, “Mummy! Quick, come see! The fog is all along the street,
But there’s a man outside who’s punching holes into the darkness!”
And as we sit here in our rooms, while we can see a gathering gloom,
Perhaps it’s time for each of us to climb up on our poles,
To light at least one flickering flame–this world would never be the same,
If we just took the time to shine. Go out and punch some holes.

 

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

Surprised by a Suffering Servant: The Man Who was Nailed Down to be Lifted Up

In 7 BC, Jerusalem lived under the oppression of an occupying army, so it stands to reason when they read the Scriptures, they looked for a Messiah who would overthrow the hated Romans and reestablish God’s kingdom. Based on their circumstances, it absolutely makes sense that they were focused on a Messiah who would deliver them. However, there were several prophecies that pointed to a suffering servant, a Messiah completely different than they expected…

Here’s one of them: “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” (Isaiah 52:13-15, NIV)

Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah being a suffering servant probably didn’t make much sense to devout Jews in Jesus’ day. Chafing under Roman rule, they were undoubtedly looking for a Deliverer along the lines of King David, a dynamic and attractive ruler with a godly heart and a warrior spirit. The notion that the Coming One might be disfigured and appalling to many would have been unthinkable. And the idea that He might be lifted up in crucifixion rather than in earthly glorification would have been shocking and offensive. Yet Isaiah said the Messiah would be disfigured and “marred beyond human likeness”. He foretold that the Messiah would be more like a suffering servant than a conquering King.

suffering servant

In Isaiah 53 he said: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 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.”

Isaiah’s vivid language pointed directly to the cross, just as Jesus did in John 12:31 when he said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John clarified what Jesus meant in the next verse: “This he said, signifying what death he should die.” When Jesus spoke of being lifted up, he wasn’t talking about being a celebrity, he was talking about being nailed to a cross…

Matthew says, right after Jesus revealed his true purpose to his followers, that “From that time forth Jesus began to show to his disciples how he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” (Matthew 16:21, NKJV) Jesus did not scheme with his disciples about politics; he acted like their servant and told them about his suffering. They didn’t want to hear of it, and they certainly didn’t think of Isaiah 52.

But Isaiah’s prophecy was well-known to Jesus, and it provided a foreshadowing of his mission and his purpose. Jesus remembered Isaiah’s words and wanted to make sure we all understood what he meant by being lifted up. That’s why he quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross, in order to call attention to its graphic description of the Messiah being lifted up in the agony of crucifixion. He wanted us to get it, to understand that He knew what his mission was and what his sacrifice would accomplish. He came to earth, not to be a slick-talking sovereign but to be a suffering servant.

According to Isaiah, it would touch “many nations”, sprinkling them with protective sacrifice for sin. The Messianic mission will ultimately silence both critics and kings, because they will see and understand that, to Jesus, being exalted meant something different than it means to earthly monarchs; that he’s not famous because he was good-looking, or celebrated because he was superior; He is exalted because he came as a suffering servant rather than as King, and he gave himself as a sacrifice when he didn’t have to–just so you can see what you were not told, and understand what you had not heard. Don’t override God’s revelation with your own assumptions and expectations. Look. Listen. See. Understand.

Messiah. Lord. Almighty King. Deliverer. Ya’ll, but here’s the thing,
He didn’t come for earthly gain, or to Jerusalem to reign;
He came from way out in the sticks; he didn’t enter politics.
Instead, he served, and took the cup. He said, “I will be lifted up”,
But not the way a Caesar would be; Jesus offered hope that could be
Freely offered from the cross. What others may have seen as loss,
He used to come to earth and bring a different kind of earthly king.
Some men dreamt of victory in toppling mighty Rome;
Jesus came from glory just to bring his children home.

 

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