Testimonies You Ought to Use in Reaching a Verdict

There are testimonies being given every day in our country. Some of them are true accounts, and some of them are bald-faced lies. What testimonies do you listen to? What testimonies do you believe? Judges and lawyers listen to lots of them, and apparently so did King David: “Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:129-130 KJV)

Since David brought it up, I was thinking a bit today about the nature of testimonies, and more specifically about God’s testimonies. The standard dictionary definition for testimony is: “1. Law. The statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court. 2. Evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof. 3. Open declaration or profession, as of faith.” A testimony is accepted as evidence. It is mainly used in court or in church, places where truth is supposed to matter. (As opposed to today’s newscasts, political arena or social media…).

testimonies

Testimony is given to affirm or declare something that happened. God’s testimonies are declarations of what God has done throughout history, evidence that the Creator has not abandoned us to the whims of history and death. I know a lot of people have a hard time accepting the Bible as God’s word. It has ancient stories that speak of things that seem impossible. Noah’s ark. A burning bush. A virgin birth. A cross. A Resurrection. Many people do not believe those things, and yet there they stand, testimonies written in a book providing evidence in support of a fact.

The writer of Hebrews said that “faith is… the evidence of things not seen.” You don’t really see wind, but you certainly see evidence of its passing. The same could be said about God’s testimonies. “But this is the twenty-first century!” we declare. “Look at all the things we know, and all the progress we have made! We have outgrown the Bible.” Have we? We live in a sophisticated age, relative to data. Not so much, relative to morality and kindness. The testimonies of God speak to that. They challenge us to a higher standard, to have testimonies of our own…

Our spiritual nature and perception of God makes us unique among all the animals, requiring love and purpose as opposed to mere instinct; God’s words speak to that too. God has revealed himself to man throughout history. It’s written down in His testimonies.

But say you don’t believe all that. Let’s say I give you all of the “archaic” stories that seem like myth; we’ll explain away the Ark and the Red Sea and the Lion’s Den. Take all of those away, but then do this for me: just explain Jesus. The testimonies about him are powerful. He never wrote a book, and yet his words are quoted every day. He said things that no one else said, did things that no one else did. You may not have literally seen his life, but you have certainly seen the evidence of his passing. Does any historian deny the historical presence of Jesus of Nazareth?

The testimonies about his life were so captivating that people literally died defending them. By the thousands: Stubbornly. Defending. Testimonies. Have you ever really considered what Jesus said? He was arguably the wisest man who ever lived… And, oh yeah, He believed in the testimonies.

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
What sustains you spiritually? What do you live by? God’s word is not given to restrict or oppress us; as David suggests, we should keep it because it’s wonderful. It has our best interests at heart; it gives advice for positive living; it offers sustenance, understanding and wisdom, even to the simple…even to me. It is a doorway to truth in a world full of spin, half-truths, and outright deception. Keep it, not because you ought to, but because it is wonderful! (Which reminds us that it is indeed… full of wonder.)

TESTIMONIES

They are statements of truth that are made in court;
They are evidence given providing support.
The judge will consider their content, and then
He’ll decide who did what, why they did it, and when!
If you want to know what is true and what’s not,
Just read testimonies all given by God;
King David just loved them, and read them each day
To provide him some wisdom and light on the way!
If you ever question, here’s something to do:
Consider the Bible and whether it’s true.
Take a hard look at Jesus, and when you are through,
Then decide if he has any answers for you.
There are millions of folks–I don’t think they are phonies–
Enjoying the wonder of God’s testimonies!
If you honestly read them, and write a report,
You might see that they’re true. And would hold up in court!

To purchase my newest 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

A Timeless Statement in Response to an Eternal Question

Who Is This Man? In the Book of John Jesus made a statement that defied human logic. If his statement was false, it truly deserves skepticism; but if it was true, it demands an investigation. Take a look at it for yourself and decide…

[In a conversation with the Pharisees] Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:54-58, NIV)

statement

This is another of the “I am” statement from Jesus that is NOT usually listed as one of the seven great “I am” statements… Here he asserts not only connection with and validation from his Father, but also a present-tense existence BEFORE Abraham. When he said this, the Pharisees took up stones to cast them in judgment. This was heresy! How could this Galilean Rabbi claim to be equal with God, or use the name of the Almighty?

They were shocked and offended that Jesus would say that he existed in the time of Abraham. How could that be? No mere man could say that he had lived hundreds of years ago! To falsely make this claim is to commit perjury or blasphemy; to believe this if it were not true is lunacy. This statement is a preposterous claim, so ask yourself: was Jesus immoral or crazy? Or perhaps you could just consider a third alternative: was he just stating the facts?

Jesus uses the same statement here about identity that he did when he spoke with Moses: “I AM”. To the Pharisees, this claim directly tied Jesus to the name that YHWH used, an unthinkable thing to do. It links Jesus to the unspeakable name of God. And why on earth did God call Himself “I am”? Why do you think God identified himself this way?

Here are three things to consider about the nature of God wrapped up in this statement: (which would be true about Jesus if they are true about God.) 1. He is the eternal God who transcends time, who pre-existed it and presides over it. The fact that Jesus Christ transcended time gives us assurance that we will, too. (I AM going to heaven…)

2. He is in the moment with you– not stuck in the past, or even pie in the sky when you die by and by– but NOW. He comes to us NOW, wherever and however we are. It can be said that the only time you truly experience heaven on earth is when you pray, because in those moments you are connected to the eternal Father, transported into heavenly time as long as you abide in Him. This statement claims that every bit of relationship you build with him here is eternal. It will outlive earthly time and connect you with him both here and in heaven. You don’t have to wait for eternal life because yours has already started!

And consideration number 3: He is the God who knows us and meets our needs… In a world full of temporary distractions and broken promises, He tells us, “I am sufficient for you”. Do you need forgiveness? That’s what I am! Do you need love? That’s who I am! Do you need encouragement? That’s what I am. Whatever you truly need… I AM.

An Eternal Statement

The Pharisees took up stones because
When Jesus told them who he was,
They didn’t believe, and couldn’t see
How such a thing could ever be.
The sheer impossibility
Suggested immortality
And, if untrue, was blasphemy.
They picked up stones with hateful scorn—
They knew when Abraham was born!
Yet Jesus said of Abraham,
“Before his life and birth, I AM.”
He must be mad to make this claim;
They grabbed their rocks, they all took aim—
But then they didn’t follow through;
No rock was thrown; no judgment flew…
It was as if they somehow knew
That everything he said was true.
If that’s the case, friend, what about you?
If Jesus was God, what will you do?
If Jesus was God what will you do?

To purchase my newest 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

Get Help from the Helper, and Be Comforted by the Comforter

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26 NASB)

There’s something of a mystery about the Holy Spirit. How do we hand over the controls of our life to him? How do we set aside our natural instincts and become inclined to “walk in the Spirit”? How do we supersede our very human nature and allow God’s character to shine through us?

I always thought that the disciples had it easy, of course, because they had Jesus. Certainly if I could just hang out each day with Jesus, I’d be more likely to act like him or think like him… I wouldn’t need a helper because I’d have JESUS. I have always thought the disciples had a distinct advantage over all the rest of us believers because of that.

That logically creates TWO questions for me, because 1) Jesus is the Word made flesh, technically speaking, so don’t I have the Word to explore every day as often as I like? (Yes, it’s just the Bible and not Jesus in the flesh, but it IS the written Word, the exact representation of the LIVING Word…)

And 2) He promised he would ask the Father to send me help, so don’t I have the Holy Spirit to seal me, indwell me, and teach me? The Holy Spirit is the HELPER Jesus asked the Father to send to us. He will provide hope when things look hopeless, faith when you can’t believe what is happening, and comfort when life in a fallen world seems like too much to bear. As a believer you are NEVER alone. In verse 18, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” So he sent us his Spirit to assist us. Shouldn’t that mean that, with God’s own Spirit within us, there is nothing spiritual we can’t do? If God be for us, why, who can be against us??

God’s intent in the New Covenant is to provide us with support and strength as long as we are yielded to Him. Circumstances can’t stop Him. Satan can’t stop Him. The only thing that can prevent that is, apparently, ME. (And yeah, the only person who can stop Him from exhibiting power in your life is YOU.) There’s a reason 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit has come to dwell within Christians in order to provide the followers of Jesus a presence and a resource that previously existed only when he walked among them. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit was sent to assist us and teach us, which is great news, and news that we should take advantage of.

helper

But notice that he doesn’t say the Helper will magically implant knowledge into our brains. Jesus says He will “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” To me, this implies that I’d need to have ‘heard’ things Jesus had said to me so the Holy Spirit could help me REMEMBER them.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit will bring those things to my remembrance, and He will teach us, interpret, expand the truth to us, and motivate us… But how much do you know about the things Jesus said for him to be ABLE to call them to your remembrance? How many words of Jesus are in your subconscious, just waiting to be recalled and illuminated by the Holy Spirit? I probably need to listen to Jesus more, and hear him better. I think I probably haven’t always given the Holy Spirit a full deck to play with.

Jesus taught us how to live, if only we will hear it;
And people strive to be the way he was, or to get near it. 
When he went home, He told us He would send the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is the Comforter, who helps us to abide,
And leads us into truth: He is our teacher and our guide.
Walk, then, in the Spirit, January to December:
If you forget what Jesus said, He'll help you to remember!
Our human, carnal nature offers spiritual resistance,
So walk, then, in the Spirit, and He'll give you some assistance.
 

To purchase my newest 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

Answer this Question Honestly: Do Your Preconceived Notions Keep You Blind?

Lawyers say that you shouldn’t ask a question if you don’t know already what the witness will answer. The Pharisees ran into that problem here: “So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25 NASB)

Here in John’s account about this particular Sabbath day, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. This seemingly joyful occasion prompted some very unusual responses, and almost everyone seems confused besides Jesus and the man who received his sight.

People who observed it were so wrapped up in preconceived assumptions that they didn’t see the obvious answer. Friends weren’t sure what had happened because the man didn’t look or act the same; his parents were worried they might get kicked out of church.

The Pharisees, who were concerned with the fact that Jesus may have broken the Sabbath, could not fathom how a man who broke their law could perform such good works. Their rigid legalism did not accept the possibility that Jesus might be from God, so they refused to give him credit and questioned his character… Their very assumptions about the truth kept them from seeing the truth.

answer

The blind man, who knew nothing of Jesus’ past, took a “Dragnet” approach: just the facts. His new vision was not obscured by assumption, pride, or an agenda. The great irony in John’s account of what happened is that the man born blind could see clearly, but the Pharisees (who could see) were actually blind. They were so busy questioning God that they couldn’t even rejoice over what happened. Some of the most religious people are also the greatest skeptics.

What effect does skepticism have on us? Can a real skeptic ever find the truth? Does a skeptic ever dance with joy? Skepticism is essentially a selfish act, because it places one’s ability to doubt above the power of faith. Show me a cynic, and I’ll show you someone who has made an idol of their own intellect.

Do you have any assumptions that keep you from seeing the truth? Take a real, unfiltered look at Jesus, not based on what I say about him, or what someone else says– and don’t let your own assumptions keep you from seeing Jesus the way he really was. See what he said with your own eyes. Take a look at what he did. Ask some honest questions, and give yourself an honest answer. You might be surprised by who you find.

The man born blind received his sight,
Which made the Pharisees start a fight,
Since all of them could not agree
On how this thing had come to be.
According to their theology
This hadn’t happened legally.
No evidence that they could find
Encouraged them to change their mind.
Though they could see, they stayed quite blind.
The man born blind was quite surprised,
Since he could see with both his eyes!
He said, “What is it with you guys?
I don’t know Jesus’ pedigree,
Or who has the authority,
But I was blind. And now I see!”
And all of us are one of these,
Either the man who suddenly sees,
Or someone who just disagrees.
You say that Jesus doesn’t heal,
And there’s no proof that He is real?
Well, I would say, just look at me:
I once was blind, but now I see!
I was in bondage: now I’m free!
For the man they sent to Calvary,
What will your decision be?

To purchase my newest 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

Word to the Wise: Out of the Thousands You’ll Hear or See Today, THESE Words Matter

Read every word of this quote and see if it sounds sane or crazy: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) This short statement is amazingly full.

First of all, consider the first two words: Jesus SAID. The spoken word is incredibly important in the Bible, even from its earliest statements on. Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Armed with nothing more than His Word, God created the heavens and the earth. The first chapter of John informs us that Jesus himself WAS the Word of God made flesh, which is validated in part by this: Armed with nothing more than his words, Jesus Christ changed history.

word

Think about some of the things he said, and consider the impact of his words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) What are the odds of the sayings of any random rabbi or religious guru lasting over 2,000 years when they were uttered before the printing press, digital recording, or mass media? What Jesus said is eternal.

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63) “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6 :68) “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51) Listening to and obeying what Jesus said (the spoken Word) gives life.

But wait, there’s more! “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) “He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28) The Word provides blessing. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

The Words of Jesus are foundational and provide wisdom. He challenged not only the religious and social institutions of his day but of ALL religious and social structures of all time.  “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) The Word provides redemption from the penalty of sin, and a way to escape death and judgment. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

The Word, which is the truth, offers to us not only redemption but also sanctification. It is an actual means to personal growth and behavioral change. And lest you dismiss all of this about the words of Jesus and take it lightly, consider this: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Consider what he said. Pay attention to his Word. Cross over from death to life. Be blessed!

Two thousand years ago, before recorders or TV,
Before the printing press became a new discovery,
The mystery of history depended upon memory,
And men who put things on a page to save them for another age…
Of all the pages that have been read,
Of all the things that men have said,
This claim withstands time’s harshest test,
And stands alone, above the rest:
“Heaven and earth will pass away,
And everything that men may say, But my words never will.”
He spoke two thousand years ago,
And history proves that this is so: His word is living still.
Think about it: What are the odds? Chances are, these words are God’s

 

To purchase my newest 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

 

Jesus Said, “I Am the Resurrection.” Was He Crazy, or What?

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Of all the claims Jesus made, this is the most fantastic and unbelievable—and it’s the one that holds the most promise.

Jesus claims to have power over death and to be the key to life after death. Think about how you might react if someone you knew made that claim, and really believed it and meant it. Well, that’s the same thing everyone around Jesus must have thought. They looked at him a little sideways and started getting the commitment papers ready…

He’s gotta be crazy to say that, right? He ACTUALLY says, “I am the resurrection”. (Of course, he does raise Lazarus from the dead right after this, and he does come back from the dead later himself…) BUT, If THIS claim isn’t true, he’s just another guy. A good teacher, yeah; a wise man, yeah, but if this statement isn’t true then He was just a revolutionary rabbi with a short career.

If Jesus did not triumph over death, then there is no greater reason to follow him than there is to follow Buddha, or Joseph Smith, or the Dali Lama… There have been plenty of teachers/preachers/rabbis/wise men/charlatans who have spoken persuasively and offered spiritual truth in various forms.

So why pay attention to Jesus? The resurrection changes everything. If this isn’t true, then we should just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” We are wasting time being good and serving when we could be concentrating on accumulating fat stacks of cash, making a name for ourselves, or just flat-out partying. Forget all that selfless love stuff and look out for old Number One. Do your own thing. YOLO! Life is short: work hard; you’re gonna die, so play harder. If there’s no resurrection, there’s no hope, and no reason to serve…

resurrection

But here’s an existential question: Is partying really better for people who believe it’s all over when we die? The ones who don’t have the Church lady looking over their shoulder, restricting them to Puritanical behavior? One of the stereotypical views of Christians is that we don’t have any fun or like to party.

From one perspective, that stereotype has a point: if Jesus was NOT the resurrection, then Christians are wasting a lot of time, serving others and trying to be like him. They have missed the whole point, and are throwing away their lives in an empty pursuit. As Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV) Now, I know some Christians who are actually (sadly) miserable in spite of what Paul asserts, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what he means…

Because here’s the thing: Jesus is also the LIFE. Yes, He offers resurrection! Yes, He offers hope for eternity, but he also offers abundant life in the here and now. (He actually says that’s why he came in John 10:10). If we actually DO have hope in Christ for the life to come, we are of all men most blessed. You see, Christians win eternally because Jesus was the resurrection and the life, and we win NOW because we live with purpose in fellowship with our creator.

We can party just as hard as anyone, only we don’t have to experience regrets like “How did I get this tattoo?” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or the walk of shame, or hangovers. The Christian life was meant to be abundant and full, and we have all been invited to the wedding feast. We don’t even have to wait in order to start the party!

Eternal life starts NOW. It’s not that we can’t/shouldn’t party right now—it’s really the only way that, in the words of the great Robert Earl Keane, “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” If that’s true, then the party will go on forever! Start now. Party on!

If I said, “I’m the resurrection!”, tell me what you’d think:
(“Maybe he meant something else, or had too much to drink…
Surely he just didn’t know he sounded so intense;
He’s nuts. A guy who makes this claim is just not making sense.”)
So why then would an honest Rabbi make this astounding claim?
An illustration? Maybe shocking listeners was his aim?
Maybe he was just confused, or maybe he got lazy,
But wouldn’t everybody think that such a man was crazy?
We should question everything that’s taught by such a man,
Who claimed to be the Son of God, who said he had a plan;
He said, “Though earth will pass away, these words I say will stand.”
So there’s your answer: question what he did and what he said:
Don’t accept, investigate and question him instead.
Was Jesus really wise, or was he just out of his head?
A Con man or a lunatic is not worth listening to,
Something I would not encourage anyone to do–
Unless, perhaps, this crazy claim he made was somehow true…
That changes the game for me. My friend, it changes the game for you.

To purchase my newest 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

Are You as Wise as You Should Be? Are You as Wise as You CAN Be? Hearken to this: Be Wise.

Do you know a lot of wise people? DO you think of yourself as wise? The dictionary says that being wise is “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment”, which makes me think of the old saying: “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from making bad decisions…”

Solomon, regarded in his day as the wisest man who ever lived, put it this way: “Wisdom says: “Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me; For blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” (Proverbs 8:32-34 ASV) Apparently the “wisest man ever” believed that anyone could be wise, and he even told us how to do it.

The secret to wisdom is to hear instruction with anticipation, and then to act upon that instruction. Think about applying it this way. Are you coachable? A coach draws up a game plan designed to maximize his own players’ skills and take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses. What if all the players on the football team, on their own, decided to do their own thing on every play? Even though the coach had a plan, and even though there was wisdom behind that plan, do you think that team would have any success? God says that the ones who keep His ways and hear what He has to say are blessed. This verse implies that ALL of us can receive instruction, and that everyone can have an opportunity to be wise.

wise

Are you maximizing your opportunity? God has a plan for us, and He has even given us a playbook full of wisdom with the details of His plan. In the game of Life, however, many of us just do our own thing, freelancing on every play even though there is a plan in place with love and wisdom behind it. I guess it would be nice if God had a magic wand and just touched our heads so they were instantly filled with wisdom, but it doesn’t happen like that.

Solomon doesn’t say that we are gifted with wisdom all at once, in an instant. He says we can hear it, and we can watch daily at the gates, waiting expectantly to receive it. Who are you listening to that gives you wisdom? Where do you wait expectantly to receive it? There are lots of types of “wisdom” in this world, but Godly wisdom seems to be a rare commodity.

Here’s an exercise: keep track how much time you spend reading or listening to men’s opinions each day, and then compare it to how much time you spend hearing wise, God-inspired instruction. If you were honest, I’d bet you were surprised at the disparity between those different sources.

Do you consider yourself to be wise? If not, why not? According to Proverbs, God’s wisdom is available to anyone who wants it; James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Hearken to God. Ask Him for wisdom. Seek him out, listen to him, and keep His ways. Be wise.

Wisdom offers gifts to all–the meek or proud, the great, or small;
Its treasure can be freely gained and all its wealth can be attained
By everyone, though strong or weak, by all who diligently seek.
There’s just one catch to carrying out this task:
You have to go to God, and you have to ask.

To purchase my newest 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

Genealogy Matters: Ordinary People Who Resulted in an Extraordinary Genealogy

The whole genealogy thing is really popular right now. People are looking at their DNA to see where they came from, what their genetic makeup is. Apparently there are hidden clues for each of us that can help us understand who we are!
Well, if that’s so, think about this: have you ever wondered who Jesus of Nazareth really was? Where he came from? If you’ve ever read his teachings, you know he was something special, but I find it fascinating that his ancestry was preserved with such passion and detail. Look into it, and you will find Ordinary, Everyday People. And an Extraordinary Genealogy.

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, NIV) Mathew (also known as Levi, the former tax collector) begins his biography of Jesus in a logical Hebrew fashion: he recounts his genealogy. This makes sense because patriarchal lineage was incredibly important in Israel, and every schoolboy could tell you who his father’s father’s father was, going back through multiple generations. Patriarchal Lineage was important. “Who’s your Daddy?” was important in Jerusalem two thousand years ago…

genealogy tree

In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, however, there is something very surprising. Read it and see if it stands out to you: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother (Bathsheba) had been Uriah’s wife…” (Matthew 1:3, 5-6 NIV)

What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and then Mary have in common? If you read Matthew 1, you’ll find they are the only women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. It’s not an aberration that there were so few; what is remarkable is that a Jewish genealogy mentioned ANY. Luke’s genealogy doesn’t mention females. Hebrew family trees were usually only traced back through the fathers, so they did not normally include any women.

Matthew, whose gospel was written for a Jewish audience, presented Jesus as the Messiah who had been foretold in the Scriptures, as the promised King who would lead Israel… Yet he departs from Hebrew tradition in the opening stanza of his narrative. It might be instructive to look at their stories and ask, why does Matthew include females in a patriarchal list normally populated with only men? Why do these women stand out? Why are they mentioned specifically and centrally in the most amazing story within the best-selling book of all time? Why are these women, normally marginalized and relegated to the kitchen in ancient Middle Eastern culture, placed upon center stage in Matthew’s Jewish gospel?

As we enter the season of Advent, it is worthwhile to consider the circumstances around the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s unique introduction gives us something to ponder as we look at the arrival of the baby whose birth in an obscure place in a relatively primitive time has absolutely changed all of human history.

As you read the story of Jesus, never forget that God often chooses unlikely and little-known candidates to change history. Never forget that the next candidate might be YOU. Perhaps your influence in the unfolding drama of history is even now being scripted and will yet bear fruit beyond your wildest expectations. After all, it happened to Mary and Joseph. It could happen to you or one of your children’s children. Remember: you read it here first.

Genealogy Matters

The mystery of history is that the genealogy
Of Jesus out of Galilee defied conventionality,
The cultural philosophy, and practice of philology.
Matthew’s careful document somehow put several women in it!
The genealogy was bent, a thing which he could not have meant
To prove the Christ was heaven-sent!
Yet there they are, genealogical sleuth:
Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, recorded in the book of Truth!
Perhaps, if this was meant to be, it means God changes history
With folks who aren’t celebrities, but people just like you and me.
Within your genealogy, what changes will yet come to be?
What names will people someday see, and what will be your legacy?
They say the truth will set you free: investigate this, friend, and see…

 

My book contains a full month of Advent reflections and interesting facts about the birth and life of Jesus. To purchase 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

Hope for the Best, Even When Things Are at Their Worst

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalms 119:116 NKJV) David had a unique perspective about God’s word. He saw it as more than something to read in church, and more than a book of wisdom that helped him understand how to live. We sometimes just hit the high spots in David’s biography, but when you really look at the circumstances and events in his life, you realize that there were plenty of times that were discouraging and difficult. In spite of that he consistently found hope in what God said.

hope

As a shepherd, David sang about God’s word and meditated upon it under the stars; as a fugitive hiding in caves from Saul’s dangerous mood swings, he drew strength from it; and as a sinner he depended upon it for comfort and forgiveness. He found in the Scriptures a connection to God that upheld him and gave him strength; he was motivated by it and hopeful because of it. What gives you hope?

Having hope is a good thing. Being unashamed of it means two things: 1) you tell everybody you know about your hope—why you look forward and what you are hoping for—without hesitation or reservation. David publicly demonstrated his hope because he was confident in what the Lord had promised.

Being unashamed could also mean: 2) you will not need to be ashamed of your hope because it WILL BE fulfilled. Your confidence in your hope is justified. David exemplified both of these points of view. Perhaps that’s why he pursued God’s commandments so strenuously. “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” (Psalm 119:131-132 NKJV)

The second King of Israel’s story had many chapters, and he longed for God’s word whether he was an unknown shepherd, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. The hope he gained from his relationship with God sustained him and kept him coming back for more. David said he hungered for God’s commandments so much that he literally opened his mouth and panted.

Do you ever jump up in the morning thinking, “Wow! I can’t do anything else today until I read God’s word and get connected with him!” Or “Wow! I need God’s mercy today! Gonna dig into that Bible and let it wash over me!” Something in God’s commandments made David hunger for them… How does your appetite compare to that?

David suffered hardships and failure, yet he believed absolutely that God is merciful and reliable. His life had plenty of discouragement, but he had hope in God. Have you found anything in God’s commandments that makes you as confident as David was? He knew that God’s custom is to be merciful to those who love Him, and he took hope from that. He got up early to bask in God’s love, and he meditated upon it in the night watches.

cycle of hope

Like David, Paul also knew that hard times produce a hope in which we cannot be ashamed: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Have you found God’s mercy? When the world lets you down, it will hold you up.

David had to flee and hide:
He ran to caves and hid inside,
And lived in dusty, thirsty fear
That murderous Saul was drawing near.
Before bipolar was a thing, the melancholy, jealous king
Whose heart and mood would darkly swing
Was soothed when he heard David sing…
Yet even though he was David’s fan,
King Saul was still a dangerous man
Who tried to kill him. So David ran.
And somewhere in a cave at night,
Unsettled by his hopeless plight,
Young David found a way to cope
And sought God’s Word, which gave him hope.
Strengthened thus, he then proclaimed
That he would never be ashamed
Of hope in what the Lord can do.
So here it is: don’t misconstrue,
But when you’re hopeless–this is dope:
The God of grace will give you hope.

 

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

Disaster or Delight, Grace or Grief: the Choice is Actually Yours

Micah presented us with warnings of disaster and the possibility of delight: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19 NASB)

This verse from Micah was actually quite surprising. Micah was written to prophesy against Judah, warning them about impending disaster at the hands of Sennacherib’s Assyrian invasion in 701 B.C. His sermons were powerful and disturbing. He said that Lord would come from his dwelling to judge Samaria and Israel so fiercely that “the mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart” (1:7). I don’t imagine that many folks enjoyed or believed Micah’s prophecy when he proclaimed it.

He used a poetic format to predict disaster and woe against the towns of Judah, playing upon their Hebrew names with a like form of judgment. English translations don’t do every name justice, but each city’s name is used to relate to some aspect of the danger that is coming. For example, the inhabitants of Beth-le-aphrah (“house of dust”) are told to “roll yourselves in the dust.” (1:10) Because Israel’s people were so committed to sin, God told them “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.” (2:3)

I’m sure Micah’s predictions were greeted with a mixed response at best. Some people thought he was crazy, some weren’t concerned about their sin, and some were probably convicted that they should take inventory of their idols and do a little repentance. Some were probably like the underperforming basketball player in the story Abe Lemon often told: He tried to challenge the young man to change by asking, “What is it with you, son, ignorance or apathy?” The indolent player replied, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care!”

If you heard Micah preach this sermon in America today, which category would you fall into? Would you deny it and speak out against it? Would you acknowledge that God would allow something as drastic as disaster to get man’s attention? Apparently God hates sin so much that he takes it seriously. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with us. When we stand in God’s holy court, we will have to give account of ourselves before Him as a righteous judge; will we feel the same way about sin in that moment as we do today?

disaster

In a book filled with some pretty harsh prophesy, Micah throws this wonderful little passage in 7:18-19, which contrasts greatly with the rest of his message… Remember, prophecy is a warning of judgment that HASN’T happened yet. The whole purpose of judgment is to call sinners to grace.

Righteousness and judgment are pretty much expected from an Almighty, all-powerful God who hates sin; and we are all sinners. We may think Micah’s prophecy sounds bad, but IF sin is so destructive, and IF a righteous God can’t stand it, and IF He has warned us to turn to him or face judgment, then technically He is absolutely right to use extreme measures to turn us away from sin.

God has the right to allow sin’s penalty to be enforced. It’s when he throws us this kind of curveball that we scratch our heads and say, “Really? Could this be true?” God pardons iniquity? He passes over rebellious acts? God delights in unchanging love? He has compassion? Yes, He does. Will our “honest” mistakes, our secret selfishness, our willful rebellions, and our repeated iniquities all be tread under God’s feet and thrown into the deepest sea? Yes, they will.

The same Judge who pronounces impending doom from the bench has also stepped down to plead our case. 1 John 2:1 says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” If I were you, I’d sign him up as my defense attorney today. There’s a day of judgment coming, and we want to have good representation, don’t we?

Disaster or Delight?

You are standing before two doors:
Open one up, the choice is yours.
Think about the choices you make,
And think about the path you take.
You get to choose which one is right:
One holds disaster and one holds delight.
The very same Judge who holds the key
To where we spend eternity
Is the one who came to Calvary
And threw our sins in the deepest sea
Because He paid our penalty.
Choose wisely, friend, and you will see…

 

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