The Amazing Story of the Victim Who Was Really a Volunteer

One of the things that Passion Week helps us to see (mentioned yesterday) is that Jesus was not a victim but a volunteer. Today is Palm Sunday, and Jesus is traveling with his friends. After the Sabbath, Jesus and the disciples walked from Bethany NW through Bethpage to Jerusalem, a journey of 8-10 miles.
He rode the last part on the colt of a donkey, fulfilling this prophecy from Zechariah 9:9, “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” As he approached, “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:8-9, NIV).

victim

Some say that Jesus was simply a great rabbi who got swept up in events, and who became a victim because of the tumultuous political climate in Jerusalem. They surmise that these adoring crowds called attention to him, the authorities reacted, and things got out of control. (And yes, these are probably some of the same crowds who will be calling for his crucifixion in just a few days…)
Even so, Luke 19 tells us that he wept compassionately over Jerusalem as he approached the city. Some Greeks came to see Philip, who took them to Andrew, who helped introduce them to Jesus. (We don’t know much about Andrew, but we could all do a lot worse than to be remembered as someone who introduced people to Jesus!). This is one of the clear signals indicating that Gentiles will be included in the New Covenant. It is an interesting fact to be included about the triumphant entry of a Jewish Rabbi… Why even speak about Greeks at such a time? Shortly after meeting them Jesus announced, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”, indicating that these Greeks and “all men” were included in his crucifixion and his kingdom.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus taught his disciples several times that he was going to die, that he was a volunteer and not a victim. Jesus was on a mission, and he was proclaiming it to everyone. Another notable statement that Jesus made in front of his followers outside of Jerusalem: ““Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27, 28, NIV). Knowing what was to come, he is troubled but not desperate; he is aware but not anxious. He knows exactly what he came to do and what his purpose is. He is not a chance victim, swept along the current of events, wishing that God would save him from this fate. He is a man on a mission who plans to see it through.

The Question Is, What Do YOU Believe About the Cross?

Luke 17:2 [Jesus taught them] But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
John 7:3 “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me.”
John 18:3, 6 Judas, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with torches and weapons. When Jesus said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground…
Matthew 26:52 Jesus told Peter to put his sword away
What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
While the cross is history, it’s also a bit of a mystery; What caused the crucifixion?
Some say it was caused by politics in the area; others claim it was mob hysteria.
Was it Jesus’s heresy? The Pharisees’ jealousy? Herod’s legacy? Judas’s zealotry?
Was Jesus swept along by a current of events, or was he in control of everything?
Was he a Rabbi who overplayed his hand, or a King who had total command? Was he a mistreated milquetoast, or a man on a mission?
The cross wasn’t circumstantial; it was strategic.
For Jesus the cross wasn’t by chance, it was by choice.
It wasn’t based on an accident; it was based on his authority.
It wasn’t a random disaster; it was a deliberate design.
He said, “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up!” & “Father, I will drink from this cup”
Jesus predicted it; he projected it; he presented it; and he prepared for it: He explained it to his disciples; he expounded upon it to the Pharisees;
and he expected it to happen
He knew about it; he talked about it; he prophesied about it; and he prayed about it.
He could have protested when he was arrested, but it wasn’t contested because
It was what he expected. He told Peter to put his sword away; he told Pilate he had nothing more to say;
The cross wasn’t the result of a bad day, or a roadblock along the way; It WAS the way…
What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
For Jesus, It wasn’t unexpected; it was premeditated.
The cross wasn’t coincidental; it was calculated.
It was not incidental, and it wasn’t accidental; it was intentional. It wasn’t capital punishment, it was cosmic punishment.
Jesus allowed the Pharisees to plot, so he could do for us what we could NOT.
He allowed the Romans to execute him, so he could execute God’s plan.
He wasn’t laid low, he was lifted up.
He wasn’t horrified, he was glorified.
Jesus wasn’t a victim of circumstance; he was a voluntary sacrifice.
What do you believe about the cross?

All the sinister plans the Pharisees could ever concoct, all the Temple guards
they could have ever sent, could never have taken the King of Kings against His will.
Jesus wasn’t a pitiful loser who got caught by surprise;
He was a powerful leader committed to salvation!

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

Saturday before Good Friday: Ten Days that Changed History

We began a long look at the Passion Week starting yesterday, so our “week” is actually ten days, starting BEFORE Palm Sunday… Here are some observations about the Saturday before Good Friday, which would have been eight days before Easter. It is a quiet Saturday, a sabbath, so there is no mention of any activity until we read John’s account  of Supper at Bethany:

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.” (John 12:1-2, NIV).

A short time before this day, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, which prompted Caiaphas (the High Priest) and his council to begin plotting Jesus’ death. They were concerned that this young rabbi’s followers would get out of hand, and bring Roman judgment down upon them all. John, who apparently had connections with the Jewish council, reported this in John 11:49: “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Saturday

After a quiet Sabbath day in Bethany on Saturday, there were several notable exchanges at dinner. The guests reclined around a low table, as was the custom, leaning on one elbow. (This accurate depiction of places at mealtime means that all of the Last Supper pictures are wrong, of course!) After the close of Sabbath they were actually reclining around a low circular or perhaps square table, starting with the Leader or Guest of honor at the head of the table, ending with the youngest. (That’s why in the Last Supper, in John 13:22-25, John describes himself as the one leaning against Jesus’ breast. As the youngest disciple, he completed the circle, and had the closest position to Jesus at formal meals).

Lazarus’ sister Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume, and Judas, the group’s treasurer, objected to the waste of money (because, John said, Judas was a thief who used his position as keeper of the bag to steal funds). Mark 14 and Matthew 26 record a very similar event, and there is some scholarly debate about these accounts, but I believe them to be two separate incidents that shared some common elements. (Since John identifies Mary as the anointing party, and Matthew and Mark do not name the woman, I think it’s two events–not just confusion within the Gospel accounts. It would have been very unusual for Matthew and Mark not to name someone as well-known to the group as Mary…)

Jesus pointed out that this anointing was appropriate because it signified his upcoming burial. He also said “you will not always have me with you”, knowing that his death was imminent. (He told them frankly about his death in John 12:23, Matt.16:21 and 20:17, but it didn’t register with them at the time). One of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of the crucifixion is that it was NOT AN ACCIDENT. Jesus knew it was coming, and he was preparing his followers to deal with it.

This Saturday evening, however, even as a crowd of curiosity seekers hovered outside the house, the disciples remained blissfully unaware of Jesus’s true intentions. But He knew what was coming, and it is always important to remember that he made these plans of his own volition, not as a victim. Zebedee’s wife asked if her sons James and John could have important positions when Jesus came into his kingdom. He used this request as a teaching moment about servant leadership, and reminded them again that he came to give his life as a ransom for many. He stated this explicitly to them three times in Mark, but apparently they didn’t grasp his mission until later. (Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34)

This was a bittersweet moment for Jesus. Disciples were speculating, perhaps, about their positions in the new kingdom when he overthrew the Romans. I’m sure there was some concern about the Sanhedrin’s opposition, but they would have assumed it was nothing the Master couldn’t handle. So much that we know now they didn’t know then. He was with his closest friends, the night before Hosannas would ring on the road to Jerusalem, and yet he was being anointed for his impending death. It is a calm before the storm.

 

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

Friday Before Good Friday: Ten Days that Changed the World

As I pointed out yesterday, we have been working our way through the entire Old Testament, taking devotional thoughts through every single book. It has been surprising to see God’s judgment juxtaposed with His precious love, and to find images of the Lord of Hosts as a lover, as an anxious groom, and as an affectionate Father singing gently over his child. These images lead us to the realization that while the Old Testament is full of the harsh reality of sin, death and a fallen world, the story of Grace is not finished. A world governed by a continuous cycle of sin and sacrifice gives way to a world of grace. Sin still corrupts, but the required sacrifice provides a plot twist that takes God’s revelation in an entirely different direction. Today, on Friday, we will look into the Gospels and see the rest of the story.

Here, nine Days before Easter, we will appreciate the Easter season for everything it holds. This Friday post introduces us to a slightly extended version of the passion week of Christ, with an attempt to recount daily activities and developments. One can easily make the argument that no other week affected all of human history as much as this one. The significance of these ten days is demonstrated by how much attention the Gospel writers paid to it: though Christ spent three years ministering, the four authors commit from at least one-fourth (Matthew and Luke) to almost one-half (John) of their books to this single week.

To set the stage for the rapid turn of events, John reminds us that the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees had been heightened by the resurrection of Lazarus. John 11:54 says, “Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Friday

Jesus was well aware that the Pharisees were plotting against Him, and any normal man might have avoided Jerusalem this week altogether. But Jesus was not a normal man. As people in Jerusalem spent Friday getting ceremoniously cleansed for the Sabbath, they wondered if He would show up at the Festival. Not only did He show up, but He had a very busy week making sure that He fulfilled every aspect of His mission.
Sabbath began on Friday at dusk and went to Saturday Sunset. Starting with today, this quiet Friday when Jesus and his disciples were on retreat together, we will walk each day through Passion week alongside Jesus and His disciples, and we will observe the various players who influence events. Here is a brief chronology:

Friday the week before: Crowds follow; Pharisees have ordered Jesus’ arrest
Saturday (Sabbath) in Bethany, an anointing at Dinner
Sunday (“Palm Sunday”) The triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Monday back and forth to Bethany, a cursed tree, cleansing the temple
Tuesday (a busy day) in the Temple, answering critics and teaching
Wednesday (a quiet day at Bethany) a brief look at chronology
Thursday (Passover Meal) Last Supper, night-time betrayal and arrest
Friday (Illegally Tried) Convicted, Scourged, Crucified
Saturday (The Darkest Day ever) In the Tomb
Sunday (Easter) The Resurrection!

As you read through the daily account of Passion Week (Really ten days, from Friday before through Easter weekend), remember that Easter is about gritty reality. It is about greed and politics, about hatred and hope. It heralds the transformation of scattered and scared disciples into astonishing men; of a rejected Rabbi into the coming King; and, ultimately, perhaps the most surprising turn of events, it begins the transition of the mighty Roman Empire into a mere asterisk in the annals of History. Last of all, it represents the transformation of an un-lovable, insecure sinner –me– into someone redeemed and adopted by the King Himself. I hope your Friday helps you begin a transformation that turns the worst day in history into the best. Day. Ever.

 

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

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

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

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

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

canon

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

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

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

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

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

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

For my money, when you consider authorship, content, cohesion, the method, and the message it presents, it’s a LOT more difficult for someone to prove that the Bible is not the authentic Word of God than for me to maintain that it IS. Canon fire shoots both ways. (https://christianheritagefellowship.com/canonization-of-the-bible/#top)

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

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

Testament to the Truth: The Old Prepared the Way for the New

You may have noticed names like Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi over the last few days as we have worked our way through the “Minor” Prophets. Perhaps you’ve also noticed a larger trend: over the last 40 days or so we have touched base with every book in the Old Testament, (which means if you have been following along, you have now read at least a part of every book in the entire Old Testament.) Way to GO!

This amazing and unique collection of writings stands alone among other ancient literature. It established a universally acknowledged standard of law, encouraged us to act with faith and vision, and it gave us glimpses of a Creator who is not only above us but also among us and for us. He is not a whimsical, capricious deity but the God who created us, cares about us, and came from beyond us.

In Isaiah 55:8 He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In Jeremiah 29:11 He says, “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.”

When talking to Moses, He identified Himself not as the Almighty God of the Universe, but as the personal God of relationship, saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6). In the Old Testament we have been encouraged to have courage (Deuteronomy 31:6), to seek and depend upon God’s presence (Judges 6), and to demonstrate stubborn love (the beautiful story of Ruth).

In the story of David we saw both triumph and tragedy, rejoicing and repentance. The Old Testament offers advice about good leadership (Exodus 18:19-21), how to live (Proverbs) and even offers some surprising insight about how to have a great sex life (Song of Solomon). It also points consistently to a Messiah who will come, not as a reigning Monarch but as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).

During the time between the Testaments, Israel suffered at the hands of invaders and despots who destroyed their temple and deported their leaders. In the midst of their devastation there were always glimpses of hope, and they were always a people who clung stubbornly to the idea that God would redeem them and love them through the coming Messiah. Even while predicting gloom and doom, men like Zephaniah and Malachi provided striking images of joy that included a tender lullaby or a frolicking calf… Working through the Old Testament provides a rich historical and spiritual backdrop that offers insight about the Coming King.

testament

There is also the very curious parallel that Israel’s story has for every believer: their journey begins in faith; they are enslaved by the culture and values of a foreign land; they have to be rescued from “the fleshpots of Egypt” through miraculous means; even though they have experienced God’s presence they often long to return to their previous life; their old ways result in evil consequences, and they are motivated to repent and accept God’s authority once again. They are headed to the Promised Land, temporary sojourners whose reward is in front of them, influenced by God’s Spirit but dabbling in the flesh: imperfect, often unfaithful followers of the God who offers them refuge and promises them He will not leave them or forsake them. Sound familiar?

The Old Testament provided a foundation and set the stage for the New Testament, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the snapshots from Habakkuk, Hosea, Esther, Job… As we go forward, we will take a tour through every New Testament book as well, so that by the end of another 30 days or so, you will have read through the entire Bible. I hope you will see the message of hope and love in every book in the Bible, and that it will whet your appetite for more!

Read the Bible. If you can, you’ll
Have a living owner’s manual,
Full of drama, wisdom, history,
Kings, adultery, even mystery;
Prophets bringing holy fire,
Psalms that lift your spirit higher;
The older Testament and the New
With literature designed for YOU,
Stories full of love and loss,
A hero lifted on a cross!
Sin required an awful price,
And Jesus made the sacrifice.
No matter what your time or place,
Your nationality or race,
God offers His Amazing Grace
To everyone who seeks His face.
At least, that’s what my Bible says…

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

 

Covenants, Old and New: Old Fashioned, or Cutting Edge?

Covenants are a more definitive way to describe contracts that have more substance or are of greater importance. It has been applied to politics, real estate law, and religion. Outside of those parameters we don’t seem to use it much. Surely covenants are old-fashioned, a thing of the past, right?
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV).
“I will bless those who bless you [Abraham], and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3, NIV)
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25, NIV)
If the Bible is clear about anything, it is that God is the God of covenants. He made one with Noah (Genesis 9:9), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2:24), Moses (Exodus 19:5), David (2 Samuel 7:28), and with us (1 Corinthians 11:25).

It is highly noteworthy that the Lord operates this way, and it teaches us some important things about His character and personality because he does. Here are a few observations:
1. In the Egyptian world and culture (among many others), people and priests were constantly making gods in the image of things; these gods were extensions of the physical creation, portrayed in the images of created things. Out of nowhere, Moses rises up and proclaims a God who stands apart from things, who instead asserts that He will not abide any physical representation of Himself, and that He alone is the creator of man, who is made in His OWN very image. As the creator, He operates in the context of relationships, and calls mankind to walk with Him in faith. He created a covenant to define and extend His relationship with fallen man, and to provide context about how sinful man could still engage with a Holy creator.

covenants

2. While it may seem parochial and odd to us that God chose the Hebrew people, and that He gave the revelation about Himself to a chosen few, it was never His intent to limit that revelation or relationship to Israel. In Genesis 12 he told Abram the reason he had called him: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God extends covenants in order to extend blessing, a process that is still happening today. Which brings us to
3: Covenants are not some ancient ritual that faded into the distant past. The new covenant is alive and powerful today, and is celebrated in every mass and every Lord’s Supper around the world. Even as we celebrate it, remember that it is not ritual and it is not legalistic, but it is an act of spiritual devotion. The fact that it calls so many people into community is evidence of its spiritual reality.

As Hebrews 8:10 says, “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” These three observations bring to mind three questions: How’s your relationship with your Creator? Who is God blessing through you? How full of God’s character and personality is your heart?

Take a contract, fix a seal to show the world that it is real;
In the Garden, from the flood, the covenants were sealed with blood
That bound participants fast and firm to all prerequisites and terms.
Make each contract hard and fast; Make it binding, make it last.
This New Covenant, finally, will pay the Garden’s penalty:
“This is my body, take and eat”: this covenant is bittersweet;
“This my blood for you was shed–for you I died, for you I bled”–
Creating a covenant from the start that touches every human heart.
This new covenant was designed with you and all your friends in mind;
When Justice makes its cruel demand,
Within this covenant take your stand:
Here upon sin’s battlefield, Christ has offered us His shield!
God’s good Grace has been revealed;
By his stripes we have been healed,
And by His blood we have been sealed.

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

 

Frolic Like Well-Fed Calves! A Surprising Image From the Midst of Destruction

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty… “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” (Malachi 3:1; 4:1-2, NIV; Day 40 of working through the Bible)

frolic

Malachi foresaw a messenger who prepared the way of the Lord, and he saw the Lord standing in the temple as the messenger of the covenant. Knowing “the rest of the story”, we know this was fulfilled by John the Baptist preparing the way and Jesus coming to earth to fulfill the covenant and to initiate a new one.
Malachi also saw the day of the Lord coming like a furnace, burning away wood, hay and stubble, destroying “the arrogant and the evildoer”. He says it will leave only those who revere the name of the Lord. Hmmm… Revere means to honor, to treat with deep respect. What do you revere? For what do you have reverence? Reverence is in pretty short supply these days. Finding reverence in private takes concentration and work, and finding it in public settings is extremely uncommon. (Maybe people think that being reverent will make things too dull, and take all the fun out of life…)
Malachi says that an arrogant society, focused on selfish rights and every possible petty slight does not revere much except itself. In the day of the Lord, the proud and selfish will be in for a rude awakening, caught in the light and energy of God in such a way that all of the self-consumed will BE consumed.
Those who revere God, however, will find healing in His light, and will see the dawn of a new day. They will “frolic like well-fed calves”. This is yet another surprising image springing out of the pages of judgment. Have you ever seen calves frolic? They hop, they bounce, and they gambol, full of random joy that can’t be contained. They are so excited they can’t stand still, and their playful attitude is contagious. True reverence doesn’t make things dull. It brings JOY! So you have two assignments today: Revere God. Frolic!

Have you ever watched the frolic of calves,
Who bounce with joy, and not by halves?
Who gambol and race at the merest chance,
Expressing delight in an awkward dance?
Have you ever seen the things they do?
Have you ever felt like frolicking, too?
Malachi said that’s the way
God’s children will frolic, dance and play–
When the sun of righteousness starts to blaze,
And the Kingdom of Heaven spreads its rays
As the world abounds with astounding praise.

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

 

April Fool’s Day: What Could It Possibly Have to Do With Jesus?

Before we get too far past April Fool’s Day, I wanted to share a quick note about Jesus’ birthday and the Real April Fool: and offer the perspective that perhaps there is a reason we can’t nail down the exact date of Jesus’ birthday…The Scripture says it like this:

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, NIV)

The historical birthday of Jesus has been debated and even disputed in modern times. Because of a lack of clarity over the timing of Herod’s reign and Quirinius’ term as governor of Syria, several theories have arisen around the exact day Jesus was born. Most scholars agree that Jesus was born in 3-4 BC, and was probably not born on Christmas day itself. Our modern date for Christmas probably started around 400 AD, when the Church moved Christmas there from January 6 to compete with (and perhaps redirect) the pagan celebration of the birth of the sun. At any rate, there is no Biblical reason to use December 25 as the true historical day of Jesus’ birth.

Based on Jewish Holy days, and the fact that shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks, many scholars feel that the most likely birth date might be in the Fall of the year. Others choose to place it in the Spring, but it’s just not conclusive. As a result, men have disputed and debated the true birth day of Christ ever since…

If I were the devil, I would love anything that creates doubt or confusion about Jesus, even his birthday. I would certainly be opportunistic enough to take anything not explicitly stated in Scripture and try to use it for division or doubt. (As a parenthetical note, there is NO real debate as to whether Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical figure, although there are fringe elements today who continue to try to change that history, just as there are those now claiming the Holocaust never happened…) Even though the exact date may be obscure, there is NO DOUBT that Jesus of Nazareth had a birthday! We just don’t really know if it was in April or not.

My lovely wife has a very interesting idea about April first. She has often noted that it seems like Satan loves to mess with days that are special to Christians. Several significant church holidays have been tied to pagan activities or worldly festivals and traditions. Easter, for instance, was loosely related to Ishtar festivals, which celebrated fertility and spring. Halloween has been tainted by ties to Satan and evil. So where did Christmas come from? It was never really tied historically to the exact birthday of Jesus (In fact, it’s probably around 4 BC to account for Tiberius and likely census dates).

We celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25 because it came from a traditional church feast day that started in the 4th century AD. (which was also based on a pagan feast day) Scripture never gives the exact date, but the fact that sheep were out grazing in Luke’s account could indicate early spring. My wife Nancy speculated that since Satan likes to 1) mess with anything godly; 2) cast aspersions about who Jesus was; and 3) make Christians look foolish, then perhaps the most logical date for the birth of Christ would be April 1.

If the great Deceiver wanted to call attention away from Jesus, why not make the day of his birth an annual Fool’s day? Make it day of pranks and foolishness rather than a day of reverence and celebration? It’s not based on scholarly research, but to me it makes sense because it is just the kind of thing that the great deceiver would do: he would try to make Christ look foolish and to create a case for doubt around His birthday.

April fools

However, if Satan did that, the joke is on him. As Paul said, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. (I Corinthians 12:7, KJV). If Satan is somehow behind turning the day of Jesus’ birth into a Fool’s day, then his little joke is just like the Cross: he thinks he won a battle when he actually lost the war!

Scholars just cannot agree, from all the evidence they can see,
The very day of Jesus’ birth. They know for sure he came to earth,
And has a place in history, but there is ambiguity
Because the Bible does not say which year, or month, or week, or day.
I know the Devil roams about to cast destruction, death, and doubt–
Using falsehood to disguise, and shrouding truth with outright lies!
I’m sure he’d love to use his tools to turn us into April Fools,
Prompting men to cast some scorn about the day that Christ was born.
But please o seeker, just remember, whether in April or December,
Jesus Christ was really here. On that, we can be crystal clear.
We may not have the day exact, but Jesus came, and that’s a fact.
So if you’d like to have debate, I wouldn’t wait, or hesitate–
Let’s talk about eternal fate, and whether Jesus shot us straight,
And if the things he said were true. I’d research that, if I were you!

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

 

Hard Hearts May Not Be Easily Broken, But They’ll Never Change the World

The brunt of human experience often wounds us, piercing our hearts and causing us to cover them with scar tissue that develops into hardened armor. As Paul Simon once put it, “I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island…And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.” With Hard hearts we can become the Spiritual Flintstones, blocking not only pain but empathy; we become desensitized to God and what He’s about, even to the point of being proud of our emotional toughness. Apparently this dynamic existed in Zechariah’s day, and the Lord called him to preach about it:

hard hearts

“And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint…” (Zechariah 7:8-12, NIV)

The Lord tells us through Zechariah to “Show mercy and compassion to one another…” These verses outline some universal values that God seems to think are important. And just from driving around in Dallas traffic, I’d have to say that mercy and compassion are in pretty short supply. (And that’s just in MY car; from the way many others drive, I don’t think there’s much mercy or compassion radiating from THEIR cars, either! Hard hearts are everywhere!) The Lord encourages us to be just, to drive considerately, to help those who are less fortunate, and to refrain from plotting evil against each other. These seem like pretty simple things to do, but how well do we do them? Encountering justice and consideration in our culture is an exception rather than the rule.

Besides encouraging us to pay attention to the Lord’s values, Zechariah also says there are results that come from NOT paying attention, from stubbornly turning our backs on God, and for refusing to listen to Him: our hearts can become as hard as flint. What do you suppose he meant by that? Hardened hearts become shielded from intimacy and they block themselves off from being vulnerable or open. Hard hearts have no mercy or compassion, no love, and no life. It makes sense that if God is love, and we shield ourselves from Him, then it follows that our hearts will not reflect His attributes and character.

But stop for a minute and look at that another way: if you want to have a strong, vibrant, living heart, then pay attention to God; get face to face with Him; be teachable; and listen for His truth. Discover what His values are and try to live by them. The fastest and surest way to change the culture around you is to change the one within you. Change your heart, and change the world…

Administer true justice, and show mercy to your brother;
Treat others with respect, and have compassion towards each other.
If you persist with selfish pride to make it on your own,
Don’t be surprised to find your hardened heart has turned to stone.
A hardened heart, the Bible says, is something you can CHOOSE:
Just don’t forget it may be more than feelings that you 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

 

Advice is Easy to Give. Great Leaders Practice What they Preach

David had gotten to the place when knew his time on earth was short, and in this passage he gave Solomon a piece of advice about how to be a great leader:

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV)

advice

David didn’t just give Solomon some pretty good advice here. What he said is worth considering and applying by all leaders everywhere. It is full of eternal, life-changing principles. When you break it down, you’ll see what I mean.

1) David starts by reminding Solomon that he is his son. He is presuming upon their relationship, and he makes this statement because Solomon falls under David’s paternal authority. Roles are important in life. David understands that part of a father’s job is to impart advice, to offer wisdom and to tell it like it is—so he does. In this case, David is Solomon’s biological father, but that’s not mandatory in mentor relationships. Every one of us is currently involved in relationships where we provide guidance or leadership, or where we need to LISTEN TO guidance or counsel. Advise well. Listen well.

2) He tells Solomon to acknowledge “the God of your father”, which means David was offering his OWN relationship with God as a baseline for Solomon. Tell, me, would you present YOUR relationship with God as the template for your children? For your friends? David failed in several very public ways, and his life in was not exactly a template for proper behavior, but he did love the Lord and follow Him in spite of his own failings and mistakes… I think it’s telling that David is confident enough in his relationship with God that he can tell his son to follow it.

3) He doesn’t just tell Solomon to acknowledge God, he tells him to serve the Lord “with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” Would you tell your kids to do that? Do you DO that? Great leadership involves more than giving advice, it comes from actually living out the principles it proclaims.

4) He reminds Solomon that the Lord knows every heart, and understands every human desire and motive; if that doesn’t give you pause for reflection, I’m not sure what will. (To bring that closer to home, the Lord knows YOUR heart, and He is aware of YOUR every motive. It is not so much my blatant, public sin that I worry about, but my private inner ones…) David advises Solomon that God’s sovereignty and omniscience matter, and that we should conduct ourselves with an awareness of what that means in our life and in our relationships.

5) He spells out the choices in black and white. If we seek God, we will find him; but if we forsake Him, He will reject us. And oh yeah, He will reject us “forever”. We have choices, and our actions have consequences. Choose wisely.

David’s reign was ending; Solomon’s had just begun,
And David offered wise advice to Solomon, his son:
“Acknowledge God the way I do, and love Him from the start;
Serve Him with a willing mind, and seek Him with all your heart.
The Lord knows every motive, every thought within your mind–
So don’t play games with Him. Be honest. Seek Him, and you’ll find…
If you forsake His wisdom as you sit upon your throne,
Then he’ll reject you utterly, and you will be alone.
You’ll find that it’s much harder, then, to govern on your own…”

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