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

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

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

hear

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

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

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

Doers Not Hearers

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

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

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

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

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. One of the great differences between the God of the Bible and other gods is compassion. Only this God became a man, shared our sorrows, and experienced our grief and pain. He knows where you are because He has been there. He understands loneliness, heartache, being misunderstood, and even the pain of death.

While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, Lamentations promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can be the only thing that is worth holding on to.

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

new hope

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

New Day, New Hope

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Expectations Aren’t Always True: If God is Not Who You Expected, Maybe You Should Change Your Expectations

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

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. His own siblings thought he might be crazy. The disciples saw him as a way up and out. They knew he was powerful but they weren’t really sure where that power was headed. The Pharisees saw him as an outsider. The Roman leaders didn’t know what to make of him.

What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).

expectations

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

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

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

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

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

Rumination on Expectation

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Humble Prayer is Apparently the First Step in Being Healed. Step Out!

The surest way to succeed, our culture tells us, is to be accomplished. Athletes “make history”, and business people keep score by how much money they’ve made. Leaders want power, gangbangers want respect, and everyone dreams of being able to do whatever they want to do. The Bible has a different take on being great: It says if you want to achieve real greatness, start by being humble. If you’ve never considered that, you might be surprised at how much difference that makes in the long run.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). This is a pretty well-known verse from 2 Chronicles, which came from a dream Solomon had right after he had made sacrifices and dedicated the temple. God appeared to Solomon and reminded him how important proper worship was, and what God required of his people.

God’s word to Solomon was one of those “If—then” conditional statements that rely upon the fact that God’s character is consistent and unchanging. In this case, God is reminding Solomon (and us) that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. Since we are His children, that makes perfect sense. But what’s required of us? First of all, we have to be God’s people, the ones who are called by his name. We need to be in a relationship with God, one that is exhibited enough externally so that others know what we are about. When people think of us, do they think of Him?

Second, we have to humble ourselves. In a world full of ego this is an attitude that we don’t see very often today. (The Special Olympics might be a place where humanity comes close to exhibiting this virtue, but the world is far more calibrated to celebrating money, power and looks than it is to celebrating the efforts of humble people.)

humble

We are surrounded by so much ego that we think it’s right to puff ourselves up and to treat the universe as if we are at its center. Because it is what we are surrounded with, it stands to reason that we might even approach the Lord that way, too. We figure that if we’re a little bit sorry, and tell God He is Lord, then we’ve achieved humility.Perhaps there is more to humility than that. Back in the day, people tore their clothes, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, they wept and fasted, and they lay prostrate on the ground before the Lord. Quick check: when is the last time you humbled yourself and prayed like that? (That’s what I thought. Me neither…)

Third, we need to seek God’s face. I think this implies not only seeing eye-to-eye, but being transparent, open, and intimate with God. Face to face means seeing Him as He truly is, and realizing that He sees us as we really are, without masks or excuses or spin. While we present our outward appearance to the world, the Lord sees our hearts.

Finally, He tells us to turn from our wicked ways. If enough of us humble ourselves and do this, He promises to forgive our sin and heal our land. What are your wicked ways? Do you think our land needs healing? Great news! God has already given us the prescription: when you turn from THEM, turn to HIM.

A Truly Humble Prayer

If my people, called by my name, will hear what I have to say,
And keep My word which they have heard, and come to me and pray;
If they will humble themselves, confess the wickedness they are in,
Then I will hear, and heal their land, and I’ll forgive their sin.
Come to me without delay– repentance must not wait–
For only through humility can you be truly great.

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
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Abba’s Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abba's children
Abba's Children

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

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

Solomon was Given a Mission, but the Temple didn’t Build Itself!

Solomon was given a Mission, ordained and blessed by the God of the universe. Since you’ve also been given a mission, perhaps it would be instructive to see what Solomon did!
“I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name…’ When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” …

So, the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stone-cutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers.” (1 Kings 5:5-16, NIV)

Solomon mission

Wow, this was a pretty big construction project—as far as Israel was concerned, it was the biggest one of all time… God could have chosen David to build the temple, but he didn’t. The Lord knew that David’s enemies would likely object to his military past, so He chose David’s son instead.

Solomon was given a clear mission by God, and he went out committed vast amounts of resources, workers, and leaders to get it underway. He worked hard to fulfill his mission. It should be instructive to us that the Lord gave Solomon a job, and he then did everything he knew how to do to get it done.

God could have just created a temple and set it right down in Jerusalem, but he gave that task to Solomon. The king could have waited for workers to appear miraculously, and for timber and stone to materialize, but he realized that God had put him where he was to have an impact on the world, and he applied himself to doing God’s work. He exercised his own wisdom and position in leveraging relationships and managing people, and he used all of his skill as king to serve God. He knew that he had been chosen by God to perform a task, and he believed that God had put him there to get it done.

Here’s the point: Why are YOU where you are? What mission has God given you? How much have you committed your skill and resources to make it happen? We may not be building a temple, but we ARE a temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and we HAVE a mission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is something to be done that only you can do. The fabric of eternity is woven with millions of seemingly unrelated tasks that change the world for good, and not all of them get headlines.

The small commissions matter just as much as the big ones in God’s economy, and He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. Jesus told us to love each other, to love “the least of these”, and even to love our enemies. Who will you love today? God has a job for each of us to do. What will He do through you? It only remains for you, in Paul’s words (Philippians 2:12-13), to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose.” Go. Fulfill.

The Only Mission that Matters

God gave Solomon a mission: build a temple, fit for me;
Put it in the center of Jerusalem for all to see!
Solomon secured the workers, more than a hundred thousand men,
Working shifts in Lebanon to bring the cedars back again.
Everything was organized–the workers getting stone and wood,
And Solomon made certain they were doing everything they could.
See, God gave Solomon a mission, so he had to do his best;
He had lots to do, but this priority outstripped the rest.
No matter what transpired, he knew he had to get the Temple done:
God gave Solomon a mission–but he’s not the only one.
Jesus gave us all a mission, there in Matthew twenty eight:
“Go and make disciples. I am with you. Don’t procrastinate!”
God has given us the job of reaching out to every man;
I hope, like Solomon, that we are doing everything we can.

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

Enough, Already: You Aren’t Big Enough or Strong Enough, or Gifted Enough. That’s ok with God

Sometimes we feel that we aren’t strong enough to handle what life has thrown at us. You’ve been there: confronted with a job too big to do, or a failure too big to overcome. Well, God has an answer for all of us weaklings… Read this exchange between the Lord and Gideon.

“The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:14-16, NIV)

enough

In this passage, Gideon expresses his insecurity to God, who assures him that his military mission will be successful. While it is somewhat startling to read about and remember the harsh “kill or be killed” environment that existed when Israel entered the Promised Land, what really jumps off the page to me is how God handles Gideon’s pitiful objection to God’s call.

Gideon responds to a call from the Almighty God of the universe by saying, I’m a weak man from a weak clan, and I don’t even have a plan! I’m not big enough or strong enough!” Interestingly, God gives Gideon a one sentence answer that reverberates through Scripture like a call to arms: “I will be with you.”

When Gideon says, “I am weak”, God says, “I am Enough.” It’s the same thing God told Moses in Exodus 3:12 when Moses objected that he was inadequate to lead Israel: “I will be with you.” It’s also what God told Joshua preparing to go into the Promised Land in Joshua 1:5, and what he told Paul in Acts 18:10. “I will be with you”. Over and over again in Scripture the Lord answers objections not with a plan, but with His presence.

Do you ever feel unworthy to serve God? Ever feel like you are not gifted and talented enough to do big things for Him? After all, we are commissioned to go share the Gospel with all the world in Matthew 28:19, and most of us get a little uncomfortable just sharing the Gospel with people on our own street. “Lord”, we object, “surely that commission stuff only applies to the disciples, or to missionaries and preachers. I’m not adequate. You must mean someone else.”

weakness enough

If you face a daunting task, or an obstacle that seems bigger than your resources, then remember God’s answer to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Paul. It also happens to be the same answer Jesus gave to believers after telling them to go and make disciples of all nations in Matthew 28:19. Go ahead and read verse 20. It is the answer He gives to you when you feel unworthy or too small to do something big: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” When you feel overwhelmed or inadequate, remember who is with you. God is enough, and more than enough. Your worthiness, abilities, and gifts just got HUGE. Go do something big!

Enough

We can feel so very small, confronted with the Father’s call,
Worried that the world will see our obvious inadequacy.
We can try to step aside, or even try to run and hide,
And go to almost any length to not rely upon our strength.
The Great Commission has revealed God wants us on the mission field,
In spite of weakness we may feel, God’s call to all of us is real.
If being called was not your plan, since after all you’re just a man,
Feel free to call God out and say, “There has to be a better way!”
And He will say about your call, just like to Gideon or Saul,
“Remember, I have chosen you to do what only you can do:
If your journey seems too tough, if circumstances get too rough,
Recall the cross and perfect love, and realize I AM enough.”

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

Adopted Into the Royal Family: It Could Happen to You

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13 NIV) It would be pretty great to be part of a Royal Family. (We might have to be adopted, but it would still be great, wouldn’t it? Just the thought of it conjures up images of royal grandeur…)

Many little girls dream of being a princess, and the Disney Princess industry is actually pretty astounding in the breadth of its offerings. There are shoes and dresses and tiaras and play sets and dolls and castles and jewelry and accessories, and oh so much more! Have you ever imagined being Royalty? To live in palaces, to have servants, to be part of the royal family?

adopted royal

In this world we live in, it’s not something you can choose. Being Royalty is something you have to be born into, or marry into if you are fortunate enough. It’s kind of like winning the human genetic lottery. If you are fortunate enough to be born in a palace, you might get to sleep on silk sheets and have servants. Someone fortunate enough to be a royal gets to live in opulence and enjoy benefits that most of us only fantasize about. Maybe we could apply for a job as a servant in the palace, but that’s the only way we would ever walk the Royal halls…

In our world the average person has a much better chance of winning the lottery than of becoming part of a Royal family; yet John’s amazing introduction suggests that it is an option open to everyone. When he presents the Word made flesh, he ties the Bethlehem manger directly to the heavenly palace. Jesus affirmed that he had a kingdom, but told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

This baby who was born in an obscure place and away from the mainstream of worldly power had the authority to confer citizenship in a new kingdom. But wait, there’s more! He also brought every one of us the right to become children of God. As opposed to human convention, religious systems or earthly royalty, this adoption into God’s family did not depend on money or pedigree or ancestry, or on someone’s acceptance or approval, or even upon a husband’s will; it required only that we believe and receive.

Anyone who does that, John says, has “the right to become children of God”. It’s ironic that the baby whose own family was plagued by questions of legitimacy, whose mother was pregnant out of wed-lock under questionable circumstances, has the power to get us adopted into God’s family. The Word, who humbled himself and gave up his own rights, lifted us up and gave us ours. He opened the doors to the palace and invited us in. As a result, we can be God’s children, fully vested in His family, and joint heirs to everything in His kingdom.

The Word made us part of God’s family, with all the attendant rights and privileges. In him, we stand to inherit everything that is rightfully his. Funny—in a way, since he was born so far away and separated from his Father, Jesus himself was a bit of an orphan, raised in a loving foster home. He knew what it was like to be near and yet far away, to be surrounded by family but still somewhat alone…yet the only begotten Son of God still made a way for every one of us to join him as one of God’s beloved adopted children. I’m sure if you ever feel a bit lonely or disconnected this holiday season, he knows just how you feel. He’s invited you into the palace, not as a servant but an equal. If you’d like to sit at the family table, he’s saved a place for you. Believe. Receive.

Adopted Millions: The King Who Shared His Kingdom

He never had a scepter, or wore a royal crown;
He never slept on silken sheets, with servants all around.
Jesus never held a court, or walked the halls of state;
He didn’t do the things that politicians think are great.
He never had a palace or the rich material things,
Although he was the Prince of Peace, the very King of kings…
His Kingdom wasn’t of this world, sustained by war and greed,
But built upon his Father’s love, where he is Lord indeed.
And where the earthly system has degraded us and stopped us,
This king used his authority to love us and adopt us!
There’s just one catch: to be adopted, you must first believe Him,
And you’ll be in His family as soon as you receive 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
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Certainty Seems to Be the Scientific High Ground, Until You Look a Little Deeper

Some types of Wisdom seem to provide certainty, but do they?
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”. (I Corinthians 3:18-19, NIV)

Paul is saying that having conventional wisdom may be an obstacle to having true wisdom. One of the great paradoxes of intellectual life is that Christianity can seem like intellectual suicide, accepting by faith things that fall outside of normal, observable criteria. But here are a couple of things for you to think about:

One, ALL intellectual positions about certain things require leaps of faith, whether scientific or faith-based. As soon as you move from certainty to assumption, you enter the realm of faith. It’s fascinating to me how many people seem willing to die on a scientific hill, when they have no more actual certainty of the wisdom of their position than I do of mine. Let me challenge you a bit and ask about the most obvious examples:

1. “Big Bang” proponents, can you give me any real proof about the way the universe originated, since you couldn’t observe or record it? Science has developed a set of assumptions to guide their thinking, but there’s no absolute proof of origin. Have you considered that your scientific position requires some major leaps of faith? Doesn’t “Big Bang” require every bit as much faith in the unknown that creation does?

2. I’m also interested in having folks who are sure about evolution give me proof without making any assumptions about their certainty that the current complexity of life developed from random events that all came together over millions of years, rather than from creation. The laws of probability suggest it would take more time than is possible, and yet many subscribe to it as if it were scientific fact.

And, 3: I would like to hear those who feel confident that abortion is merely a woman’s reproductive right, please explain how they “know” when the fetus becomes a life… I’m pro-choice but against ending a human life. However, I have yet to hear the definitive explanation from the Pro-Choice side about exactly when a fetus is a living soul. If it’s just part of a woman’s body, then it’s truly her right to get rid of it.

certainty

But if it’s a life, then ending it is morally wrong, and it’s only assumption–not science– that “justifies” the decision to terminate it. I believe that when a fetus becomes a living soul, then it is protected by moral law. “Pro-choice” proponents cannot empirically demonstrate exactly when that happens, so they act on assumption rather than certainty.

The law has in some cases arbitrarily assumed that a fetus is not considered viable until 20 weeks, but how do they know for sure? What if it becomes a soul at TEN weeks? At heartbeat? At conception? Who knows? Do you know? Are you sure? But any abortions after that point would be murder… I’m not saying I’m right–they’re wrong, but I am saying that, in the end, each of those people HAS to have as much faith about their position as I do about mine. The wisdom of the world is saying, “go ahead and terminate full-term babies”, which is the logical extension of their assumptions. But if that’s wrong, then terminating a fetus also becomes wrong at some point. The question is, when do we have certainty?

And according to this verse, holding fast to this world’s wisdom may keep someone from finding God’s… In Hebrews it says that it is impossible to please God without faith. In the biblical view of things, faith begets wisdom, not the other way around. God rewards those who come to Him in faith with true wisdom. Earthly wisdom is its own reward. Heavenly wisdom is directed towards, well, HEAVEN. Don’t deceive yourself: become foolish.

Foolish Faith?

Some of us demand to see the proof with our own eyes,
And point to scientific evidence to make us wise.
We use empirical proof to see some things that give us certainty,
And trust that we will grow to be superior intellectually…
God provides his wisdom, but it is another kind;
He asks us to depend on faith; to see where we are blind,
To evidence that is not seen, or based on something “school-ish”:
He asks us to believe in Him when others call us foolish.
Academics scoff at faith. They even have the gumption
To ridicule belief as something based on mere assumption!
But even science makes assumptions everywhere you turn,
And there are leaps of faith required no matter what you learn.
So in that place where evidence ends–perhaps I’m kinda dense–
Having faith in “nothing” doesn’t make intellectual sense.
So I agree with Paul, and I will read his words again:
The “foolishness” of God is wiser than the wisest men…

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

Danger Held No Fear For Him: But Should We Really Follow Paul’s Example?

The apostle Paul went to great lengths to spread Christ’s message, and he willingly faced all kinds of danger. Maybe he was so zealous because he had tried to wipe out this new movement about following Jesus; maybe he was just a passionate guy. But he served Christ with all of his heart, regardless of personal discomfort or danger.

In spite of that, he was criticized by others, picked at by wanna-be church leaders, and stabbed in the back by jealous contemporaries. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he addressed some of the folks who boasted about all they had done, casting aspersions that Paul was not as committed as people said he was. Since they had called him a fool, he said in 2 Corinthians 11:16: “Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting…”

He went on to remind them of his qualifications:
“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

danger

I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked…” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NIV)

This was Paul’s response to critics who tried to disparage his ministry. As you look at it, just make a note of each of the dangers, risks, hardships, and life-threatening situations he endured to share the Gospel. It’s quite a resume. Five beatings of thirty-nine lashes. Three beatings with rods. One very personal encounter with angry stones. Three shipwrecks. And those are just the highlights! He doesn’t even get to his imprisonments and martyrdom…

To Paul, following Christ was an “all in” proposition. (After all, he was the one who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”) You really should read that list again to let it sink in. In today’s world, we get bent out of shape if the sermon goes 20 minutes over, and people (on average) spend about NINE minutes a day being involved in church. Yep, about an hour a week. When I look at Paul’s list, I am struck by both the hardship he was willing to endure and the passion he brought to sharing the message of the gospel. To Paul, things like hunger and thirst were just minor inconveniences compared to the glory of telling the good news. Kinda makes you feel a little bad about saying you don’t have time to be a greeter, doesn’t it?

I, Paul

I have lived a joyful life! I’ve learned to be content.
Just think of all I saw, and all the places that I went!
I went to Macedonia, and traveled far from home;
I sailed upon the open sea! I got to go to Rome!
Yes there have been some hardships that occurred along the way,
Like when our ship went down, and I went swimming for a day.
And yes I was arrested, and got whipped a time or five–
And that time I was stoned, I’m still amazed I stayed alive!
But even though I’ve had some inconvenience and some pain:
I know for me to Live is Christ, for me to die is gain!
But looking back now, I can say I’ve served Him from the start:
And I would challenge you, my friend, to serve with all your heart.
When you are looking back on life, with all the good and bad,
I hope that you can say with me, “I gave it all I had!”

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