Why Being Reserved Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means

When Jesus used the word “sanctify” he was actually talking about being reserved, but not in the sense of being low-key. SO you don’t have to be “reserved” to actually BE “reserved”… In his prayer the night he was betrayed, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:17-20, NKJV)

Jesus not only said He WAS the truth (John 14:6) and that the truth would set us free ((John 8:32), but he asked the Father to sanctify us by the truth. In a spiritual sense the word “sanctify” means to set apart for sacred use, and that is the most common application of the word. But because it is kind of churchy word, I don’t think we use it as practically as we should. It actually means RESERVED. When you make a reservation at a restaurant, there should be a table reserved for your use. Leroy Eims said that a Jeep parked outside headquarters and designated with Four stars is “sanctified” (set apart) for the General, and woe to any Second Lieutenant who takes it for a spin!

reserved jeep

Baker’s Dictionary says that the generic meaning is “the state of proper functioning. To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is “sanctified” when used to write. Eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight.” Obviously things work better when we use them for what they were designed for. You use eyeglasses to see, but not to scramble eggs or unlock the door; you use God’s word not just as an interesting old book, but also to change the very state of your existence. So when Jesus prayed for us in the garden, and asked his Father to sanctify us, what did He mean by that?

reserved for God

First of all, he acknowledges that we are set apart. As his followers, we have stepped outside of the previous boundaries of our existence and into a spiritual journey of obedience and transformation. As a believer, you live in a sanctified state and are set apart for God’s use. To me, that’s set apart from not only culture but also religion. We are set apart to be in a RELATIONSHIP with God, not to be self-righteous or merely religious.

It’s interesting that in this short snippet of Jesus’ prayer, he answers a big theological question—why the cross? He said, “I set myself apart” so that we could be “truly sanctified”, and our sanctification involves being set apart so that the life of Jesus could be manifested in us. That’s why Paul says (in Galatians 2:20), “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” It was only by Jesus’ crucifixion that we could be “truly sanctified”.

Second, Jesus said that each of us has a purpose for which we were specifically made. Just as He was being sanctified for his journey to the cross, he prayed for every one of us to be used the way our Designer intended us to be used. Did the Designer intend for us to live consumed with our own selfish fleshly desires, or with a spiritual nature that can lift us out of our carnal selfishness to love and service? That’s why the rest of Galatians 2:20 says “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The life that Jesus lived empowers the life the Father wants us to live.

Two questions: What do you think your Designer intended for you to do? And

2) are you allowing Truth to sanctify you and set you apart so that you are equipped to do it?

In the garden, Jesus prayed the night before he died;
He prayed on our behalf and asked that we be sanctified.
He prayed for us, and asked that you and I be set apart
To feel the Father’s love for us, to know the Father’s heart.
When his work was finished, would he ask of me and you,
Tell me, children, what have you been sanctified to 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

Sand or Stone? What Kind of Foundation are your values built on?

It may seem obvious that a foundation should be built on bedrock instead of sand, but sand seems to be making a comeback as the foundation of choice. Here’s what Jesus said about it:

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” (Luke 6:46-48, NIV)

In some recent discussions about truth, a couple of folks have dismissed the Bible and told me that it is merely a myth containing some truth, but certainly not THE truth. If I go by what I read on social and mainstream media, this seems to be a common viewpoint. To much of the world, truth is relative to every individual, so it is getting harder to find common ground. In today’s world, whether it is politics or journalism or social media, truth is built on shifting sand.

If Truth is relative, it follows that right and wrong are also relative. “What’s true for you is not necessarily true for me.” “You have no authority to tell me what to do. Right and wrong only exist in our own minds!” I understand where that thinking comes from, and it seems to have lots of momentum these days. Our culture chafes under any authority. TV commercials tell you to break the rules, not to share, or to color outside the lines. We ignore what law enforcement officials tell us to do. Lying and changing your position used to be considered a deal-breaker when running for President. Today it is pretty common, and there is little public outcry or backlash.

Relativism opens all kinds of doors. We should legalize weed because it’s no worse than alcohol, and lots of people do it. Criminals are called courageous for shooting at police. Even something as seemingly obvious as gender, we are told, is really just a matter of choice. Our moral values seem to be built on the shifting sand of public opinion.

sand not stone

But according to Jesus, there is a firm foundation to build upon. The teaching of Jesus set a different kind of standard for how we should be accountable and how we should treat one another. This passage highlights that there are two great dangers: One, don’t assume you know Jesus just because you go to church, or because you seem outwardly connected to him. He says we not only need to know what he said, but to live by it.

Second, he says that we should build our values and our goals upon what He taught. We should dig deep and stand firm. If you say you follow Jesus but don’t know everything he said, get busy. He claimed to be “The way, the truth, and the life.” If that statement is true, you owe it to yourself to re-read, revisit, and reapply.

If you don’t know what Jesus said, don’t dismiss him. At some point in your life, when the storms of difficulty break upon you, you will find yourself in need of a firm foundation. When that happens, all the shifting sand in the world won’t do you any good. Dig deep. Build. Stand.

Jesus once described two homes, both built in different places;
Each of them was built upon extremely different bases.
One was built upon the rock, the strongest substance on the block,
And when disaster tried to knock it down it just withstood the shock!
The other, built on softer stuff, foundation made of sandy fluff,
Was never really strong enough and really wasn’t very tough.
The moral here is simple: if you want your house to stand,
Build your house upon the rock, and not on shifting sand.

 

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

Is Life About Merriment or Moments? And What Difference Does it Make?

Why are we here? It is a question asked by every generation, and one of the most common answers is, we are put on this earth merely to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” So ask yourself, is merriment the main purpose of our existence? What are we supposed to get out of life, anyway? Consider this:

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”. (Psalm 118:17, NIV) David actually says a lot in this short comment from the Psalms about the celebration of life. To me, it echoes Christ’s statement in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” To start from the end and go backwards, David proclaims that he is alive to “declare the works of the Lord”. He looks to a Being greater than himself to find a purpose greater than himself.

Like David, your life has a purpose greater than what you see. If you play the game, “Six Degrees of Separation” where you know somebody who knows somebody else who knows the President or Kevin Bacon, you realize how interconnected and small the world is, and just how large your life is. It will touch corners of the globe where you have never been, and all kinds of people you have not seen. Because of that your life has a purpose much greater than simply living for yourself, and yet that is what many of us do.

As Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” says, we are here for God’s pleasure, not just our own. That’s why it is called His-story, and not My-story! Do you ever stop to realize that you are casual and short-sighted about life, even though you only get one chance at it? Life is not a dress rehearsal! The first part of this verse says, “I shall not die but live”, reminding us that our life will not end, and has a purpose far greater than its earthly span. I think we forget sometimes that life is far greater than an earthly sojourn—it is an eternal adventure.

merriment

C S Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Are you serious about eternity? Do you enjoy merriment of the merriest kind?

As eternal beings, we have the opportunity to reflect the character and works of our creator. Do you think most people live as if their actions today mattered forever? Do you? Would your world be a better place if you interacted with others as though your conversation was an eternal transaction? As C. S. Lewis points out, it adds weight to things, even to our merriment. I’m not against parties (I love to party!), but I am not too impressed with purely frivolous parties. I mean, we all partied like it was 1999, but I’m not sure it added anything meaningful to our existence. But a party with people you actually love, celebrating together– why, that’s eternal.

The Psalmist not only speaks of the length of his life, he also proclaims its purpose: to “declare the works of the Lord.” What if you lived today with that in mind? Would anything change? Has God done any work in you, around you, or through you that deserves declaration? Since you are no mere mortal, live as if you matter. Live as if GOD matters. And have some merriment of the merriest kind.

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!
But do you ever look around, or pause to wonder why?
Why are we put here on earth, and what’s the reason for our birth,
And what could be the purpose that imparts to us eternal worth?
It’s really no great mystery, the way to make some History
Is living for God’s pleasure. That’s the only thing to measure.

 

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

Writing YOUR Story: It’s Time for YOU to write ME! Let me Hear From YOU!

Why have I been writing these posts for the last 980 days (give or take)? Maybe because “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1, 2, NIV) The Bible is an amazing book, and it makes some powerful claims about Jesus. Those claims are either an incredible lie or they are absolutely true. There’s really no middle ground.

I have been writing these posts because I believe those claims are true.

It has been about three years since I started this daily devotional, and I have a confession to make. Writing these posts every day is hard. It has required a commitment that I honestly didn’t know I had. I am not a “discipline guy”, I am a creative, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Throughout my life I have been a sporadic Quiet Time guy rather than an every-day-journal kind of guy.

From the beginning of this endeavor, I have followed a few simple rules: 1) The first year, I was going to try to produce or edit one every day; 2) I wouldn’t follow anyone else’s menu for Scripture reading or devotionals (which explains why it has been pretty random in terms of what passages it addressed when); 3) during this last year I have gone back through to do some editing and add a poem to every single post; and 4) I would write for an audience of one (Him) and make applications for the reader who needed them the most (me).

I have tried my best to keep my posts organic and to allow them to come naturally through my own reading and experiences during the year. While I certainly reflected the good preaching I have heard and authors I have read, the poetry, commentary, errors, reflections and conclusions in my writing have been mine. ( I have tried to be Biblical, not political, and I hope that has been the case in my blog…) I wanted to begin every day with the Book that has changed my life in the hope that you, too, could gain a deeper appreciation of its depth and subtlety.

I consider the Bible to be (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16) inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. If you have been keeping up, during the past year we have had a chance to look more closely at Easter and the Passion week; we followed Jesus and his disciples chronologically in “real-time” over His last week on earth.

We were able to start in Genesis and go through every book in the Bible, discovering some great stuff about God in the Minor Prophets along the way. We dove into Christ’s genealogy, looked at historical and political underpinnings of His birth, and explored the revolutionary way He broke down social and religious barriers in a world full of them. We looked at some of His teachings, and I know I came away more impressed than ever at His wisdom and insight. I have reflected on travels in Israel and been exposed to the land of the Bible. I have tried to compare the teachings of Jesus to our culture and to my own behavior.

writing about Jesus

If Jesus was who He said he was, then He is a man worth studying, a leader worth emulating, and a God worthy of worship. It is my prayer that you would take an honest look at Him and see those conclusions as evident and logical. If you have read along for any length of time this year, I would LOVE to hear your story, and would really appreciate it if you either:

1) share one of your own insights or applications in the comments (which is easy, come on just jot something down!), or 2) PM me with your story or comment as you feel appropriate. I would really REALLY like to hear from you, so take a minute NOW and reply or respond. I honestly don’t expect to get many replies, but it would be really cool if a bunch of you would surprise me and tell me a little bit of YOUR story, how you met Christ or something you have learned lately… If you want to tell me you disagree with everything I’ve written, that would be ok too! If you are too busy to write a long story, then please respond with a short sentence or a one-word comment.

I have taken comments and feedback to heart, and a couple of people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to invest more time in writing poetry with each of my posts. So I’ve done that over the last year. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite poem or if any of the verse has meant something to you. (My secret dream is that somewhere unbeknownst to me, some pastor uses one of my poems in a sermon because it captures something of the message he preached that day!)
I’ll close with one of my favorite poems of mine, one that reflects on John and the impact his writing has had on me:

The Writer
Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!
Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be?
Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…
But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

 

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

The Substance of Hope, Or How Faith Changed the World

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).

The writer of Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. If you dissect the syllables and break that down, substance comes from sub (under) and stance (from stand), or that which stands under a thing. Knowing what stands under a thing will often help our understanding OF a thing. The Greek word used for substance is hypostasis, which referred to the underlying state or condition of a thing. It was also a legal term used in real estate transactions because it indicated that there was an underlying legal document (the title-deed) that provided proof of ownership and possession.

Faith is basically our deed of trust, giving us ownership of hope, and a reasonable expectation that God will do what He promised to do. The things which we CAN see are a down payment towards the things we CAN’T see. Creation points us towards faith and proves God’s reliability, because it demonstrates that all visible things were made by the One who is not visible. God does what He does. You can believe or not believe. You can choose to ignore the evidence He placed about himself into creation—the vastness of the universe, the delicate balance of the earth hung in orbit, the intricacy of a cell, the seasons, a flower, and the canvas of the sky every day—or you can allow it to stimulate faith.

substance

If you follow God by faith, the writer of Hebrews says, it will change your life. The elders obtained a good testimony by their faith, and Hebrews 11 goes on to discuss the stories of those who believed, and changed not only their own lives but human history as well… Faith is a big deal, ya’ll, but here’s the thing: God will never MAKE you believe.

It’s an interesting intellectual conundrum, but God did not make himself provable because He has given us a choice. An empirical God (one with substance that could be proven physically) would remove our will from the equation; we’d have no choice but to accept Him and worship Him. So the loving God preserved our choice by withholding PROOF and giving us EVIDENCE. That way we can decide how we feel about Him.

You can be skeptical about a God who painted portions of His self-portrait into a chosen people, an Exodus, the Pentateuch, a shepherd-king, the Psalms, the prophets, history (His Story), His Son, the Word, and into relationships throughout every generation… You can dismiss the people of faith as irrational, and you can live your entire life ignoring God. You don’t have to seek God or engage Him in any way. You don’t ever have to have faith in God…

But if you decide that faith in God is not for you, there are things you will never understand about God. You will never know about the substance of His character, His generosity, His wisdom, or His love. You won’t discover the presence of a loving Father who provides comfort to those who mourn and a home to those who wander. And, oh yeah, your world will never change; it will never stretch beyond the boundaries of what you see or know empirically.

But if you search for God, Hebrews 11:6 gives makes this awesome claim: “whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

Wherever you come from, wherever you’ve been, whatever you believe or think: if you seek God in faith, He will be pleased and He will respond to you. Seek in faith today. Be rewarded forever.

Faith is what we hope for based on what we cannot see–
Like holding grapes, anticipating wine.
We see the universe and wonder how it came to be,
Inferring a Designer from design.
God is not empirical, or a theorem you can prove,
His substance is much more than what is taught;
He says that faith will find Him, and the mountain can be moved,
But it’s your choice to live by faith, or not.
You can live by intellect, observe God and critique Him;
Or You can get to know Him, if by faith you truly seek 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

Respect: I Guess Aretha Franklin Was Right, After All

Aretha sang about Respect, (R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me!) and it was something all of us can relate to.

respect

Everybody wants to be treated fairly. Paul talked about it, too:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:1-7, NIV)

This is a pretty controversial passage, isn’t it? Paul’s words would not be very popular today, I’m afraid. On one hand, some would say that THEIR president didn’t get elected, so they don’t have to respect the current officeholder. They might even use their freedom of speech to express negativity in personal attacks and mean-spirited rants. People hated on Barack Obama when he was President. Even Christian threw stones while the world watched to see how well we love our enemies. Today, the celebrities whose party lost the election are belligerent and profane, filled with righteous indignation; but they’re not alone: the party that won is not any better. Haters gonna hate, and nobody gives anybody respect.

On the other hand, there are people who fight representatives of law enforcement at every step, who refuse to offer them cooperation or respect. They lie to them, resist them, make it incredibly difficult to do their job, hurl obscenities at them, and in extreme cases, target them for violence. And then they wonder why those representatives lose their composure or overreact. At the same time, some folks in law enforcement abuse their power or use it unfairly. Nobody gives anybody respect no matter which side they are on…

Paul’s counsel is pretty simple: Offer Respect. Treat governing authorities as if God elected them. Don’t rebel against them. All of Paul’s advice goes against our grain; we are indignant at such antiquated advice. It raises hard questions. Should we follow along like sheep even when governing authorities are evil? What if a law enforcement official steps over the line? Can’t we fight back? Politically, do we not have the right to protest, to express our opposition to incumbents? I don’t think that Paul is telling us we have no political rights, no freedoms, or that followers of Christ can’t express themselves. But he does say a couple of important things:

One, Obey the law and respect authorities as you would respect the Lord. I see a huge lack of respect in our society, and it seems like it’s getting worse every day. Respecting and honoring our fellow citizens might change our dialog and our opportunities to find solutions. Disagree but don’t be disagreeable. Treat others the way you would wish to be treated.

Two, Paul says that if you don’t break the law, you have nothing to fear. “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” This doesn’t account for every single situation, and statistically we know that you are FAR more likely to be wrongfully detained or questioned in America if you are a young male with darker skin. But Paul’s advice to EVERY young man, regardless of color, is simple: Do what is right. Wouldn’t life be simpler if you never gave anyone a reason to detain or arrest you? And to leaders, he would say: God has put you where you are. Act like it.

Three, follow Aretha’s advice and give each other (whether government officials or not) honor and respect. If all human transactions in our country were conducted with honor and respect, what would change? Would checking out at the store be different? How about driving? What would change on social media? On your newsfeed? In our politics? Today’s verse probably has something for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, or political party: if you are being selfish, mean-spirited, a perpetual victim, a self-righteous judge, or a disrespectful thug, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. Start doing it right. Yeah, you. Listen to the Bible. And to Aretha.

RESPECT (written by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin)

What you want (oo) Baby, I got it
What you need (oo) Do you know I got it
All I’m askin’ for is a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home
(just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)
I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong (oo) ’cause I don’t wanna (oo)
All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)

 

Hey, America, yeah we've got some liberties to protect,
And each of us stands on our rights the way you would expect;
But hatred only leads to hate (at least the last time I checked),
So maybe we should offer one another more RESPECT.
Take what Aretha sang, and what Paul wrote, and be direct:
All I'm askin' for, America is a little more respect!

 

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

Independence Day: Remember What Your Freedom REALLY Cost

We value freedom in America, and we exercise it, too. On July 4 we celebrate the freedom that we gained by becoming independent, but there’s far more to that than meets the eye. It is in the personal stories behind the American Revolution that we can, I think, truly come to appreciate what the word Independence means. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not merely making a political statement; they were risking their lives….

independence day

Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island, aged 70, said as he signed, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.” Benjamin Franklin uttered the famous words, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

The wealthy John Hancock was already a wanted man, and the British were offering a 500-pound reward for him. He said he signed in enormous letters so that “John Bull can read my name without spectacles and may now double his reward.”

Benjamin Harrison, a large man, jested with one of his smaller colleagues that he would hang more quickly because of his large girth, while the smaller man would hang much less efficiently…

Each of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence became a wanted man; and each, knowing full well what the cost might be, put his signature beneath this statement:
“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Of the 56 signers, five were captured by the British, and were tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked or burned. Two lost sons in the Revolutionary army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War.

Francis Lewis of New York saw his home plundered and destroyed by British soldiers. His wife was captured and treated with brutality, and though she was finally exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died a few months later.
John Hart of Hopewell, New Jersey risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. After her death, the British hounded Hart, who was forced to live in forests and caves for over a year. His fields and gristmill were laid to waste. When the British were driven from the area and he was able to return home, his wife was dead, his children gone, and his home destroyed. He died a few weeks later, in 1779, of an illness; some say of a broken heart.

Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia, became aware of the fact that the British General Cornwallis had made his headquarters in Nelson’s beautiful home. When the Marquis de Lafayette invited Nelson to direct the artillery fire, he instructed the troops to fire upon his own home, destroying it. Nelson went bankrupt and died 7 years later at the age of 50.

Carter Braxton of Virginia was a wealthy planter and trader. The British navy sank his ships, and he was forced to sell his properties to cover his debts. He died in rags.
Thomas Lynch, Jr., of South Carolina, suffered broken health from deprivation and exposure he endured as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in Europe, and on the voyage there he and a young bride were drowned at sea.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence paid a terrible price so that you and I might have freedom; most of them died without ever knowing if their desperate gamble would pay off.

John Adams, in a letter to his wife, called out to those of us who would come after him:
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent it in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

On July 4 we have Parades, fireworks, shows and games to celebrate our Independence Day, and most of us enjoy the day without even being aware of the individual sacrifices that took place to make it happen…
We value independence in America. We celebrate it. It is part of the fabric of our lives. If you look up the word independence in Webster’s, it says: “free from the authority, control, or influence of others”. As Americans, we treasure this aspect of our political life, we are accustomed to it, we even take it for granted! Most of us will agree that Independence is a good thing.

I’ve got some bad news. In a spiritual sense, independence is a terrible thing. As glorious as our Freedom is, and as much as I gained researching the stories of the sacrifices and noble actions of the Patriots who risked everything for Independence, I realized that there is a different perspective on independence, a Christian perspective. The first letter of Independence is “I”.

Think about it for a minute…Christianity is full of paradoxes, which stand conventional thinking on its ear: you have to acknowledge your sin to be made righteous; to be nothing in order to become something; to die to yourself to live for Christ; act as a servant to be the leader; be last to be first; give to get; lose your life to keep it; and be glorified only through humility.

The Biblical perspective on Independence is clear: it gets us into trouble.
Satan was independent (“I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…”) He fell from God’s glory into a world of dark shadows, disaster, selfishness, and pain.

Eve was independent. (“I know Adam told me God said I shouldn’t eat this fruit, but why shouldn’t I be able to do what I want?) She ate the fruit God said not to eat, and exercised her will over God’s instructions.

Adam was independent. (Why shouldn’t I have the right to know good and evil?) He ate the fruit and introduced death and shame into the world, bringing destruction to all mankind.

Cain was independent. (Why should I have to sacrifice the way God says? I’ll do things my way) He was so consumed by pride and self-will he murdered his brother…

The Israelites gained Independence. They threw a wild party, worshipped a golden calf, and had to wander 40 years in the wilderness so that a whole generation could die before going on to the promised land… Later, in Judges 21:25 it says, “And every man did that which was right in his own eyes… [The story of the nation of Israel gets repetitive: they do what they want, they pay a fearsome price for it, they are humbled by circumstances, they cry out to God for help, and he delivers them from their oppression. Once they are delivered, they get comfortable, and they start doing whatever they want again.] It may be the story of Israel, but it is the story of us all.

I have been independent. And I guarantee you that every big mistake I’ve ever made has been because I decided to do what I wanted to do, regardless of the consequences. I have acted, to recall Webster’s definition, “free from authority or control”…

What about you? The downside of Independence and the freedom it brings is that it also allows selfishness, and the ability to act however we want. So as you celebrate today, remember: Freedom isn’t free. And freedom doesn’t come from doing whatever you want; it comes from doing what is right. In John 8:32 Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In verse 36 he said, “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” As you celebrate independence today, be free. Be free indeed.

Because it’s free, American life and citizenship are sought;
So when you think of freedom, and the good things it has brought,
Remember: freedom isn’t free, for it is dearly bought.
America, don’t do what you want, but please do what you OUGHT.

 

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

Revenge (According to Paul) is a Dish That is Best Served… How?

We live in a culture that says it is ok to take revenge on those who wrong us. We have rap stars who get into spats, a President who tweets, and attacks on social media against virtually any point of view. However, the Bible’s advice about revenge is absolutely counterintuitive:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, NIV)

revenge

As Paul illustrates what love looks like, he paints on the canvas of human relationships, and he advises believers to be abnormal. Conventional wisdom might say that our self-worth enables us to move beyond revenge, but Paul suggests there is more to it than that. There are a few subtle points in this passage that are important.

A loving person, Paul says, does not exact revenge or repay evil for evil. As he encourages us all to live at peace with those around us, he agrees with what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? ” (Matthew 5:44, 46 NIV).

We are not to seek vengeance when we are wronged, and we can achieve justice by leaving things in God’s hands. Peace is impossible where people seek vengeance. Gandhi reiterated this when he said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Paul encourages us to “leave room for God’s wrath”. This is a striking statement in the middle of a chapter about love, and one of the subtle points that are important in this passage. God’s wrath is a fierce and righteous thing. It is never capricious or frivolous, but always just and appropriate. We can depend on it. It addresses wrongs and ultimately (rightly) punishes those who harden their hearts.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the great lion is portrayed as loving and kind. But the characters who know him are filled with respect, and even somewhat afraid of him. He is civil and majestic, but fearsome and dangerous. When they describe him they always say, “Oh he’s not a TAME lion”. God’s wrath is something pure, far above our petty motives and selfish ways. Romans 12 says we should allow HIM to administer perfect justice instead of attempting to straighten things out ourselves. SO what does that look like for you?

The temptation to take revenge comes in many situations. I drive a LOT in traffic (in my job, on vacation, traveling, whatever) and I am a fairly assertive driver on a road filled with timid, distracted, or just plain selfish people. Of course I myself am a GOOD driver. As a result I tend to be critical of other drivers, and even offer commentary on their lack of skill, concentration, and judgment. My entire family has noticed this through the years, and it is an area of my Christian walk where I have often been less than loving.

As I have gotten older, I’ve made some progress with my attitude behind the wheel, and have at least become a bit less outwardly demonstrative toward the (bad) distracted drivers around me (which means: I don’t purposely cut them off, make unnecessary hand signals, or give them dirty looks) but I haven’t really lived in peace while driving. Based on Paul’s advice, I am trying to apply Romans 12 to my driving, so I can exemplify a different attitude in the car. (Some days good, some days still not so good…)

I’m not sure that letting someone merge when it’s not their turn will “heap burning coals” upon them, but I could at least offer good in response to evil and trust God to provide justice. Driving is really just a small part of our lives, and there are many ways we could leave justice in God’s hands and allow HIM to take care of revenge: leaving that catty response unsaid, or NOT talking about someone behind their back, or showing grace on social media when someone is so obviously wrong…

But I’m sure you can think of your OWN application of Romans 12. What keeps you from living at peace with others? What frustrates you about your enemies? Next time you bump into one of those things, show some love instead of frustration. Get out there and overcome evil with good. God says He will take care of the rest.

When someone’s actions hurt your feelings,
Insult you and send you reeling,
Listen to Paul’s astute advice:
Don’t take vengeance, just be nice!
You don’t have to pull your sword;
Give your anger to the Lord,
And try to find a better way.
Remember He had this to say:
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay”.

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

What Are You Doing Here on Earth, For Heaven’s Sake?

What are you doing? I mean yes, in the grand scheme of things, what are you doing here on earth? Life is not about feeling, it is about DOING.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 12-16, NIV)

Paul started this “love chapter” by exhorting us to be living sacrifices, and to follow Christ’s selfless example. In verses 9-11 he talks about the need for sincere love. Here in verses 12-16 he says that DOING love is more important than FEELING love…

He acknowledges that love is a great motivator, and I bet your own personal experience would bear that out. (Think about some of the things you have done because of love—whether foolish things to pursue romantic love, or acts of service inspired by unselfish love… We have all found ourselves doing something differently at some point because of love’s motivational pull.)

Here are two very different examples: The summer I was 15, I was on the aquatics staff at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow in Kerrville, Texas. Hoping to meet girls, I put “HI THERE” with adhesive tape on my chest for about a week. When I removed the tape, my tan lines said HI THERE all by themselves for at least a couple of weeks. (True story. Yeah it’s a dumb thing, but I was 15 and it did actually help break the ice with local girls a couple of times. It was, however, a little embarrassing on Parents’ Day at the end of the session, since I was on the aquatics staff and was in the pool working with kids with a chest that said, “HI THERE”…)

doing  (NOT an actual photo)

A few years later, I was on staff at the Navigators’ Eagle Lake Boys’ Camp in Colorado Springs. At the end of the summer, I donated a big portion of my salary to the camp (which, my Dad pointed out, was supposed to be my spending money at college that fall; when he had to replace it, it actually meant that HE had given the money to Eagle Lake. Sorry, Daddy. My heart may have been in the right place, but the net result of my decision fell on you…)

Both of those actions were motivated by love in one form or another—one foolish, and one sublime—but both were done in hopes of having a different outcome than would have been achieved by standing pat. The point is, what are you doing differently today because of love? What outcome are you hoping for?

Paul says here that love will help us overcome adverse circumstances. It enables us to view the world differently: to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I have to say I am ashamed at how often I am NOT patient in affliction or faithful in prayer. How about you?

Love inspires generosity towards others, and it even helps us act differently towards those with whom we disagree. Do you bless those who persecute you, or do you curse them? If we are living sacrifices, Paul says, we will be empathetic and live in harmony with others. Burt Bacharach’s1965 pop song said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”… The Beatles said, “Love is all you need.” How true.

There is too much division in our world and in our culture, and not enough blessing. Paul said a living sacrifice is not stuck up or conceited, but spends time doing loving things, which creates a means for God’s love to reside on earth through us, to us. Be loving today. Make the same decision tomorrow.

Love is not emotion or the giddy way you feel;
Love is more than feelings, (although feelings may be real);
Love is more than romance, or the love songs used for wooing:
Love is found in how you do the things that you are doing.
Do them well, and serve as if you worked for God above,
And fill your life with godliness by doing things with love.

 

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

Here Are Two Words You Don’t Use Every Day: Passionate Fervor

In Romans 12 (the “other” love chapter) Paul describes love’s many facets, and he uses familiar words like sincerity, devotion, and honor. He also uses uncommon terms, like fervor, which is not a word that’s much in vogue today… (The dictionary says it means having passion, or intense heat.) When was the last time you talked about having FERVOR? It happens at sporting events, maybe, or rock concerts, but there aren’t many cultural equivalents I can think of. I’ve heard about a religious fervor where people get whipped up into a frenzy, but I’m pretty sure Paul is not talking about that here. When you look at the passage, he describes it as something else:

fervor

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:9-11 NIV) I’ve mentioned that in Romans 12, Paul has been painting a picture of love. It’s slightly different from his eloquent words in 1 Corinthians 13, and it expands and explores the boundaries of our definition.

He started by exhorting us to follow Christ’s example of sacrificial love, and continued by encouraging us to build each other up with whatever tools God has given us. Now he gets specific about love and starts to break it down for us with some detail. Be authentic (as Robin Williams’ Genie told Aladdin, “Beeee yourself!”).

Hate what is evil. Do you? I hate some of the big ugly evils, but I’m still pretty comfortable with some of my “little” secret evils… How about you? Any secret evils you need to hate?

Treat each other with respect and honor. Have you noticed any lack of respect and honor in our society today? When it comes to respect, do you extend it to others, or just expect it for yourself?

And then my favorite, “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor”! Do you have fervor? Are you passionate for Jesus? I know people worry about being pushy or overwhelming, but I don’t think that’s the kind of zeal Paul is talking about. This is the kind that seasons our thoughts and conversations, and encourages us to dream godly things.

What dreams do you have? Are your spiritual fires burning? Are you falling in love with God a little more each day? The natural result of emotional love is passion. So is the spiritual one. “Fervor” means “intense and passionate feeling”. Have some fervor about God. Be ferverous. (No that’s not a word, but I wanted you to think about it all day, ha!) Paul says that the natural result of spiritual fervor is service; as we grow more passionate about the Lord, we’ll be more inclined to serve him. I guess you could say that fervor makes you a server!

So what should we do with Romans 12? Get out there and serve! Be ferverous in your serverous.

 

Paul takes some time to delve deep into love in Romans twelve:
Honor one another. Hate evil, but love your brother.
In all your dealings, make it clear that purest love is quite sincere.
If you live the way you should, you will cling to what is good,
And devoted love will guide you as it stokes the fire inside you.
It seems if you have fervor, you will love to be a server,
And devotion to the Lord will help us act with one accord.
If the gospel makes good sense, let your fervor be intense;
Let the way you truly feel invoke a passion that is real,
And let no others steal your joy or criticize your zeal.
Be passionately ferverous in your walk and in your serverous!

 

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