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

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

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

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

suffering servant

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Habakkuk Tells us to Rejoice When Things Fall Apart. Really?

Habakkuk seemed to have it backwards. He tells us to rejoice in failure. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV) There are times when everything seems to fall apart. It can be a major calamity or it can even be an accumulation of small things, but sometimes it seems like life is just not fair.

Habakkuk knew

There is a reason people say, “It never rains, but it pours”, because calamities and irritations seem to travel in a pack. Failure happens. Something mechanical breaks down. A relationship gets strained. A bill comes due, and there is no money in the account to pay it. Cable goes out just before the big game… And sometimes, it all seems to happen at once.

Habakkuk says that even in the midst of breakdowns and unfortunate circumstances, “Yet I will rejoice in The Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior”. God does not afflict us, He offers us salvation. He uses even bad circumstances for good–to build patience, to draw us closer to Him, or to make us more like His son. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So when you encounter failure, the crops fail, and the fridge is empty, don’t give up! If you are experiencing something difficult, don’t despair. Winston Churchill said, during England’s dark days under Nazi attack: “When you are going through hell, keep going.” Habakkuk takes that challenge even further. He says we should flip the tables on it and rejoice! Joy is a choice we can make, and the Lord promises that He will work within even your worst circumstances for your good, and to give you reasons to rejoice. When the worst happens, we may not gain triumph over circumstances from an earthly perspective, but we can gain intimacy with God, and He can use circumstances to improve us. Habakkuk also says that we can rejoice no matter what, so take heart: choose joy.

 
Habakkuk says, when times are hard, that he will still rejoice:
Could it be, like trusting God, that joy can be a choice?
Though circumstances flail you, don't allow them to derail you,
So whatever that entails and whatsoever may assail you,
Place hope and trust in God, and know that He will never fail you!

 

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

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

frolic

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

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

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

 

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

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

hard hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Enough Isn’t Always Enough. If That’s True for You, Maybe You Need a Shift in Priorities

Perhaps the Rolling Stones were describing some of us when they said, “I can’t get no satisfaction”. All of us spend at least some of our time trying to get enough, whether it’s money or control or food or pleasure… But what do you do when having enough doesn’t satisfy? According to the Stones, you could try and try and try but still come up short.  And if you read your Bible, apparently Mick Jagger wasn’t the first one to say, “I can’t get no”, because Haggai said something very similar 3000 years ago:

enough

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:5-6, NIV)

In 21st century America, we live in perhaps the most materialistic society in human history. We are avid money-makers and consumers. Most of our dreams of success picture us not in service to others, but surrounded by opulence and wealth. So what’s the big deal? Isn’t that the way we ought to live? Peter Lord said, “What you really believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.” And if we are honest, what we really care about most is evident by what we spend our time pursuing. In our culture, it’s “normal” to want to get ahead, to buy a nicer car and a bigger house. Like the Rolling Stones, we can’t get no satisfaction. We’ve tried. And we’ve tried… But it’s not enough.

Often, the end justifies the means, and we will fudge on values and family time to chase a “better life”. Frankly, no matter how we spin it as necessary, or normal, or even as a sign of Blessing, it’s really just all about the Benjamins; we are a culture consumed with material things. We have so much, but it’s never enough.

Haggai’s message was preached to people just like us. They were caught up in earning, eating and drinking. Yet they never had enough. They were not satisfied or content, and their plentiful harvests and full purses could not ever give them what they really needed.
I know Jesus said it to his disciples—and to us—but perhaps he was also thinking of Haggai’s audience when he said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).

If you’re like me, you probably have a lot of stuff. And while stuff is not evil in itself, if you have some vague discontent that floats around the back of your mind when you can’t sleep, perhaps there’s a reason. Perhaps “stuff” is not sufficient to complete us or make us whole. Based on Haggai’s sermon, if you are not satisfied, maybe you are seeking the wrong things first. Your purse may not be the only thing that has holes that need to be filled.

If you feel that money is a sign of being blessed,
Then stop and give the motives of your heart a little test:
Are you truly satisfied with just the things you need,
Or is it possible that you could have a little greed?
Beware of having too much love for money, things, or stuff,
Since they can never satisfy, or offer you enough.
Seek God’s kingdom first, and let your heart with Him be thrilled,
Then check your purse, and see that all the holes it had are filled.

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

 

Zephaniah says That You are the Delight of the Almighty God! Believe It!

There is a song your Creator is singing, and it is not the dirge of judgment or the chant of condemnation, it is the Lullaby of Delight. Often we are so focused on God’s righteousness and authority that we tend to forget His love. Zephaniah reflects on those attributes and reminds us that God is not limited to who we sometimes think He is…

Zephaniah

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV) Sometimes is it really nice to stop explaining the Bible or analyzing it just to bask for a while in one of its surprising images. Sometimes the emotional resonance outweighs the scholarly reflection.

Look at this picture of the Lord in Zephaniah. God (the LORD, the Mighty Warrior) is WITH me, he takes great DELIGHT in me, and he REJOICES over me with singing. The Almighty God of the Universe is not just infinitely powerful, He is infinitely loving. In the middle of a book in which Zephaniah predicts death and destruction, he also offers us a depiction of delight.

The Lord is pictured here as singing over us, and the image is maternal and compassionate. While God is described as a mighty warrior, he is also at once loving and kind– like a nesting bird protecting its fledglings, like a young mother singing a lullaby to her infant, the Lord holds us with tender love. He is not the God of vengeance who merely wants to rebuke us; He is the loving God who takes great delight in us.

His delight added the final touches to his creation, made perfectly to be our home until sin corrupted it. His delight brought the Ark to dry land; it was found in the bulrushes of the Nile and in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem. It called to us in the prophets and spoke lovingly to us across centuries before technology or media existed. The Lord’s delight in you was demonstrated on the cross with a stubborn love that would not let you go… Zephaniah says that the mighty warrior sings a lullaby over you.

This verse has been put into a praise song that says, “Quiet me with your holy love and rejoice over me with singing.” When is the last time your prayer to God simply asked Him to sing over you? When have you listened? Can you hear it, amidst the bustle of every day, the loving voice of a singing God? He bathes you in the light of a new day; he caresses you with gentle breezes… Bask in that for a moment. Climb up into God’s lap and sit for a spell. Can you feel surrounded and protected by His presence? Do you feel His smile lighting the room because you are there?

At the close of your day, do you sense Him drawing near? Listen to his song as it comforts you and surrounds you with joyful affection. Can you hear it, full of love and affirmation? Can you fall asleep each night secure in the Father’s lullaby? Would your life change if you saw yourself as God sees you? What if you saw yourself as delightful and loveable? According to Zephaniah, you are. God takes DELIGHT in you! Next time you look in the mirror, try to see yourself the way God sees you; then smile back at God’s precious child and rejoice!

I created you to love, to have you love Me back,
Allowing you a will, a heart– a voice!
My righteous love provided you whatever you might lack,
While Good and Evil offered you a choice…

I remember walking in the garden hand in hand,
Enjoying perfect love before the Fall;
Sin distorted everything, and Justice now commands
That Judgment be applied to one and all.

Though the world has fallen, and the garden has grown wild,
And pangs of consequence expand the night,
You will always be my joy, my treasure, and my child,
And in you I will always take Delight.

If you listen closely, you will hear amidst the noise,
A Father’s song of love is breaking through,
Calling you to leave your worldly, temporary toys!
Listen: I am singing over you.

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

 

Amazed By the Grandeur of the Universe? What if it Had a Creator?

The universe is utterly Amazing: Is God the Creator or just a figment of your imagination? Is it all made by God, or is God all made up? Is there a God who really does things?
“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV) This sentence is something that has confounded skeptics and caused debates.

Is God really out there? Believers say He is. The academic intellectual doubts it. Atheists scoff at the notion.
Has God really ever done anything in our midst that we would not believe, even if we were told? It is easy to look the world around us and fail to see God. On the one hand, there are those who say that all evidence is purely empirical, based on what we can observe and analyze. Just apply the scientific method to our existence: according to science, we came from random explosions in an expanding universe that somehow interacted to synthesize amino proteins which came together to form DNA. It’s all explainable using quantum physics and scientific analysis.

amazed

On the other hand, believers say God created the universe with a design and a plan.

On the one hand, you can try to talk to God, but you’ll receive no direct answer, and hear no vocal response. On the other hand, people speak and listen to God with surety every day.

On the one hand, we live in a world where there is cause and effect, and the things that happen can all be explained; on the other hand, people see the hand of God at work. On one hand, technology is altering the way we get information, and people are living in tweets and sound bites, gravitating away from reflection and contemplation. Culture resides in the here and now, not the dusty past… On the other hand, God revealed himself through the Word, and put his wisdom and his story into a book that has to be explored and meditated upon.

Seems kinda backward of God, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t he have waited to come when He could have made the news? Wouldn’t technology have provided a better communications base than the Bible? The intellectuals of this world shoot holes in faith, and many people could say they have not really seen God. Yet Habakkuk claims that God will do something utterly amazing, which “you would not believe, even if you were told.”

You know what? Habakkuk’s prophecy came true. God did just that. He sent his Son to earth as a fragile infant. He said things no one had ever said, and lived as no one else had ever lived. His love and humility astounded his followers and confounded the wise. He went to the cross, in the utterly amazing story of redemption. Habakkuk was right. God did something “in your days”… You’ve now been told; whether you believe it or not, and whether you choose to be amazed by it is totally up to you. (By the way, if you believe it, make sure you tell somebody else about it today! They might be amazed, too!)

Habakkuk said that God would do some things among the nations
Which would be quite historical, and cause some big sensations.
He said that folks would look upon God’s work and be amazed,
Yet there some who still observe and really are not fazed.
They say that God is not at work, and they can’t really see
That God has ever been at work to alter history…
They might just note that calendars are dated from the birth
Of a baby from Judea who changed everything on earth.
Read his teaching, analyze his life, and then observe
That he came not to rule the world, but to ransom it, and serve.
Habakkuk said we’d be amazed at all that God could do:
Who knew that in a baby, his prediction would come true?
I’ve been amazed by Jesus; tell me, scientist, have you?

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

 

Destruction Draws All of Us Like Moths to a Flame

It seems like we humans can’t avoid destruction: is it that God is really mean, or that sin is just really deadly? As we go through life doing what we want, we keep giving in to temptation, being drawn into sin like a moth to a flame…

destruction moths

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…” (Nahum 1:7, NIV) Nahum is mainly full of dire predictions about Nineveh’s coming destruction. Apparently the sweeping repentance that happened as a result of Jonah’s preaching there (Jonah 3:10) didn’t last forever. Jonah went to Nineveh around 760 BC, and 100 years later they were back to their adulterous, idolatrous, wicked ways. (Nahum calls her a wanton, lustful harlot, and decries her carved images and temple idols; they have forgotten their sackcloth and ashes, and fallen back into the corrupt pagan practices that had been their downfall just two generations ago…).
Nineveh was spared once before, but returned to sin like a moth to the flame. They probably didn’t want to at first, but they probably couldn’t help themselves. Even though Nahum says “the Lord is slow to anger” in 1:3, He had finally reached the end of His patience with this cruel pagan city, and Nahum says His justice was going to fall upon them like a consuming fire (3:15) or an overflowing flood. (1:8)

And yet, in the midst of this ultimate prediction of destruction, there is a reminder that God cares for those who trust him. There is an affirmation that God is good. And there is the promise that he is a refuge in times of trouble. I get the feeling that even now at the eleventh hour, even as the wheels of justice are being set in motion to grind Nineveh to dust, there is an extended offer of hope. God is amazingly consistent like that, and there is a simple equation that holds true about God’s character that never changes: When we turn arrogance towards the Lord, we will always encounter a righteous judge; when we turn repentance towards the Lord, we will always find a comforting refuge. Nahum’s prediction of judgment is inexorable, but so is God’s promise of goodness and grace. The variable in this equation is us.

Is it just that God is cruel, and loves to hate the sinner?
Does he hate mankind so much that He must be the winner?
Or could it be that God is loving, offering us His grace,
And calling us to refuge from the midst of our disgrace?
Sin is deadly, and it offers nothing but destruction,
And yet God offers grace if we will follow His instruction:
Here’s a simple way to see if you are on His path,
And this is always true no matter how you do the math:
If we choose rebellious sin, then judgment’s sure to fall;
But if we all repent, then God will offer grace to all.
The God of love and light cannot abide malignant sin,
But offers you His grace and love, no matter where you’ve been.
Question God if you desire: debate, discuss, and cuss–
But He remains the same. The only variable is US.

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

 

Micah Had a Hopeless Case; But His Advocate Encouraged Him to Rise, and Shine!

If you are living in darkness, Micah says you have an advocate, and that you will again be able to rise and shine.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.” (Micah 7:7-9, NIV).

Micah

Micah predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, at a time when Jerusalem seemed to have recovered some of their spiritual equilibrium under Hezekiah. After years of darkness under evil rulers, it seemed that God’s glory over Israel was about to shine again in perpetuity. Yet Micah preached that the opposite was going to happen. I’m sure he was criticized and ridiculed, and there were times when it must have seemed as if he was swimming against the current, standing alone in a culture that felt somewhat holy and successful.

He says two things that are instructive. 1) He says “I wait for God my Savior”. How many times do I get impatient with God? We are the instant gratification generation, and often try to move far ahead of God’s timing or our own preparedness. Abram waited 25 YEARS for God to fulfill his promise of a son. Moses spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court, and then 40 YEARS as a fugitive before God called him to lead Israel out of slavery. After his conversion, Paul spent at least three YEARS in the desert being prepared for his mission. Over and over the Bible illustrates that God’s timing often requires patience.

2) Micah sees God’s judgment as just, and acknowledges God, not just as his righteous judge, but also his advocate. He places his fate in God’s hands. Micah allows the light of God to shine into the darkest parts of his heart. It stands to reason that Micah has to tell his defense attorney everything, and he has to confess to all of his crimes. That might be especially awkward when your advocate is also your judge. In God’s courtroom, however, it is the best move to make.

Confession is not only good for the soul, it is the key to staying right with God. David committed terrible sins, but stayed intimate with God because of his contrite confession. Micah has confidence that he has an advocate in God because he confessed. According to John, it is the same with us: “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And, “if any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the righteous.” (1 John 1:9, 2:1). You want to hope in the Lord? Confess. Rise after you have fallen? Confess. Live in the light? Confess. Receive defense from the best advocate ever? You got it. Take a minute this morning to confess humbly before your God. Then watch. Hope. Rise. Shine!

Micah lived in misery, without a hope in sight,
And yet he said with confidence, “The Lord will be my light!”
Micah stood before the court whose judgment he must face,
And yet he said “Lord I confess. Please, Father, plead my case.”
So when you stand before the bench, like me and all the rest,
Make sure you have a lawyer who will plead your cause the best;
In this case you will have the greatest chance if you’ve confessed.
Even though there may be darkness covering your eyes,
Confess, and let God plead your case, and see His light, and Rise.

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

 

Whining Isn’t What You Expect From a Prophet, But Somehow This Sounds Familiar

Remember being in VBS and listening to the story about Jonah and the whale? (Well the Bible says “great fish”, but the key thing is he was swallowed. (That DOES recall a Seinfeld episode where George pretended to be a marine biologist and said he walked right up to the big fish! Jerry: “Mammal.” George, engrossed in telling his story about being a marine biologist: “Whatever.”) You probably recall that Jonah was ultimately successful in preaching mission to Nineveh, but then he kinda spoiled the whole love thing by whining about it to God.

At any rate, Jonah is one of the more famous prophets, probably because of the whole “made for VBS” fish story, but his story is really deeper than just being eaten by a whale. He really should be famous because ran from and disagreed with God’s will, and then couldn’t stop whining about it. Unfortunately, this whole whining thing still pops up in the church from time to time… In Jonah’s case, he was party to a downright miracle, and he was unhappy about it. Is there anything we can learn from him today?

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it… But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 3:10; 4:1-3, NKJV).

whining prophet

Jonah was not a very cooperative prophet. First, he ran in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. (Thank goodness we’ve never done that!) He only finally went to Nineveh kicking and screaming, objecting to the possibility that God might spare them. (Apparently he knew better than the Lord did, so he was just going to go his own way, thank you. Have you ever run from a ministry opportunity because it didn’t fit in with YOUR plans?) And when God spared Nineveh, Jonah went off and pouted. He set a new record for whining among great men of God. Even when good happened, he had the wrong attitude about the right thing.

On one hand, Jonah could be compared to some pastors today: they are motivated by ego more than by God; they have their own agenda, not the Lord’s; and they are driven by culture instead of God’s word. But, wait! If you agreed with the comments about some of those Pastors, then read through Jonah again…BECAUSE:

Looking at this text, Jonah would also fit in well with some of today’s churchgoers: he knows more than the leadership; if he doesn’t like what they are doing he’ll go somewhere else; if the church doesn’t do what they want, then the whining starts: they will go off and sulk; and they’ll gripe and complain every step of the way. (Ha, you were nodding your head when I was talking about preachers, but now you’re saying, “Wait just a dang minute! He’s quit preaching and gone to meddling!”) Sometimes, it’s probably best to 1) listen to God, 2) just roll up our sleeves and be open to the ministry God wants us to do, and 3) serve.

Don’t worry about who’s wrong or right,
Just serve Lord with all your might!
Humility is God’s delight:
It doesn’t honor Him when we fight.
Remember these words in capital type:
THE HOLY SPIRIT DOESN’T GRIPE!

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