If Only I Won the Lottery, that Would Solve All my Problems, Right? Think Again

Moses was tending sheep out in a remote area when he saw a curious sight. He may not have realized he had just won the theological lottery, but he ended up having a conversation that changed his life.

“Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV). Have you ever stopped to wonder God introduced himself to Moses as ” I AM”? It’s a fascinating descriptor, but what exactly did God mean by that?

Russ Massey, my Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader in Conroe during the 90’s, shared a situation that many of us could relate to. The Texas State lottery had begun, and he said that a couple of times he and his wife had fantasized about winning the lottery… No big deal, but they thought about all the good ways they could use the money (starting with a nice tithe back to God, of course). Nancy and I have done the same thing—played the “if only” game… Wouldn’t it be great if we won the lottery? If only we won the lottery, then life would be great!

lottery winners

If only we had that money, we could pay off the kids’ mortgages, set up some education funds for grandchildren, and generally provide many, many benefits for those close to us. (And yes, some of those benefits might come our way as well…) We could retire easily, we could have things, we could travel, and we would be set. The Lottery could solve all of our problems… “If only” seems like a pretty innocent exercise, one that most of us have played from time to time. But as Russ shared that scenario with us, he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said we play that game and fantasize about something like that for many reasons, not just winning the lottery.

If only I got that promotion, if only we lived in a different neighborhood, if only my spouse were a better person, THEN life would be better. Russ said, “Isn’t it strange that we never put God in that blank after “if only”? What if we said, “If only GOD,”? Would life be better then? He went on to say that when we play the “if only ______” game, then whatever we use to fill in the blank, that is god to us. We may not consciously worship it, but it is. Kinda makes you stop and think about what we put into that blank and why.

Russ finished his thoughts by connecting some important dots. God called himself “I AM”, which fits exactly into the “if only” game. We say, “Lord, if only I had what I need.” God says, “I AM” what you need. “Lord, if only I felt loved…” I AM love. “Lord, if only I knew the way…” I AM the way. “Lord, if only I had more of this or that…” I AM all you need.

The logic behind Russ’s conclusion is perfect. When we try to plug temporal things into our lives to complete ourselves, we stay incomplete. Moses objected to accepting God’s call because he felt unworthy. As he told God how he (a murderer and a fugitive) was not adequate or willing to lead, God understood. In fact, the Lord had already countered all of Moses’ objections when He told him His Name. Can’t speak well? I AM going to provide for that. Afraid of being ill-equipped? I AM sufficient.

What about you? What are your objections to serving God with all of your heart and soul? Lord, work and the kids keep me busy; just wait until I retire! Lord, if only I were a better speaker… If only I had more time… If only I were better prepared! God would say to you the very thing He said to Moses: “Whatever you need… I AM.” Don’t wait on the lottery. Just Go.

Moses saw a burning flame and asked the Lord about His name:
“I AM”, said God, but Moses asked if he was worthy for the task.
Speaking, he objected to the work that God expected:
“Oh Lord, he said, I’m just a man with halting speech! Without a plan!”
And God said, “Whatever you need, I AM.
When people grumble and resent you, tell them that I AM has sent you!
If people say you are a sham, tell them that you serve I AM!”
Moses learned God’s mystery. The rest, of course, is history.

 

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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Relationships Matter: When the God of Relationships Calls You, Answer the Phone!

Sometimes relationships come out of nowhere to change our lives. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God… (Exodus 3:5-6, NIV)

relationships

I have always thought that the way God introduced himself to Moses was revealing, which makes good sense because He is and has always been the God of revelation. In this case, He also identifies Himself as the God of relationships — the God of Moses’ father, and of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible is the story of how God has revealed Himself to man, and how He has engaged in relationships with us. Here in Exodus He revealed himself to Moses when Moses least expected it. Does He still reveal himself to us? On this earth, we encounter the Lord on his terms, not ours. Moses grew up in a land with many gods, so it had to be somewhat of a shock to him to encounter the One True God.

If you think of it, however, we are all in Moses’ sandals, and some point we are all called to step out of them. We have all grown up surrounded and tempted by many gods—celebrities, material things, success, ego, power, lust—and the real question is, have you ever met the One True God? Do you know who He is?

To that end, the introduction to Buell Kazee’s Faith is the Victory contains one of the greatest statements about God I have ever read: “God creates man in his image, and man creates God in his image. It depends on who is doing the creating as to what kind of being we have in either case. Man, left to himself, will always have a god, and that god will always be like man himself. Because man is confused, he will make for himself many gods, but they will all be like himself. The conflict of the world is between the One God, who arises from beyond man’s realm of knowledge, and the many gods which he has created out of his own heart.” (Faith is the Victory, Intro, page 9)

This world is full of many gods (with a small “g”), man-made idols that people may not even realize they worship. When God reveals Himself, it is surprising to most folks that there is actually only one God, and that He is offering them a choice.

The way God identified himself to Moses is significant. He didn’t say to Moses, “I am the great cosmic all-powerful God of the universe.” He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” In essence, he was telling Moses: “I am the God who loves people. I am the God of relationships. You can know me personally, just as your forefathers did. Look at the people who have walked with me, and you will see who I am and what I do. Look for reflections of my character in those who have no earthly means to possess it otherwise. Accept my revelation of who I am, and you can walk with me just as they did. Ignore the many meaningless gods that clamor for your attention, and walk with me.”

Stop and take a look around your life. There are indeed still meaningless gods who clamor for your attention. Somewhere amidst all the material things, the celebrities, the agendas, the politics, the cell phones, the incessant ads, the sports, and the intrusive pervasive media, the God of relationships is revealing Himself to you. Don’t miss Him.

 

In Egypt, gods were everywhere–
An idol here, a temple there–
Worshipping idols was the style:
They worshipped cats! The Sun! The Nile!
But Moses in the desert ran
Into the God who said, “I AM”.
“I am the God of Abraham–
Isaac and Jacob, too.”
Moses didn’t doubt and scoff;
He stopped and took his sandals off;
He knew this was a holy place
And so he stopped, and hid his face.
This relationship with God was new:
It gave him more to dare, and do–
Changed more than how he wore his shoes–
Changed everything that Moses knew,
His life, his plans, his point of view!
If God introduced Himself to YOU,
Tell me, then, what YOU would do:

 

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

Temptation Offers Its Fruit in Many Forms. Beware!

Temptation comes in many forms, but nowhere has it been depicted any more accurately than in this Genesis account. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

temptation Eve

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:1-6, NIV)

The account of man’s temptation and fall in the garden packs an incredible amount of truth into a very few words. Here are a few quick observations:

1) “Did God really say?” Twisting the truth is a sure path to ruin. It almost always opens the door to doubt, rationalization, and denial.

2) God gave man hundreds of fruits to say “yes” to and only ONE “no.” Man still chose the one wrong thing. We still do that today, don’t we? In the face of any number of blessings, we will choose selfishness and rebellion over love and obedience.

3) The story doesn’t tell us WHO added “and you must not touch it”. Eve could have been repeating what Adam told her. Men have always added their own burdens and interpretations to God’s command, starting with the first one. But perhaps adding more restriction to God’s statement made it easier to rationalize and therefore easier to break.

4) Adam was apparently off working or playing golf long enough for Eve to have a lengthy conversation with the serpent. The crafty serpent may have been hanging around for a while, biding his time. We often flirt with temptation a bit before accepting its invitation to dance. People rarely fall headlong into grievous sin; they sneak into it one step at a time, and everyone else is surprised when the marriage suddenly breaks up or the bigger theft occurs. Usually the temptation and response to it have been quietly growing over time…and so has the magnitude of sin.

5) The serpent was smart, and he went after both Eve and Adam very strategically. He tempted Eve by questioning the truth; he also offered her something tasty and “pleasing to the eye”. He attracted Eve with a desirable THING. Kinda like shopping. Or Pinterest. Women rise up in arms if anyone suggests that shopping is a sin, trust me on that one. But it relates to covetousness, and desiring things. That’s what drew Eve into sin.

6) He not only offered her a pretty, tasty snack, he offered her the opportunity to supplant the authority in her life, promising “you will be like God.” No longer would she chafe under Adam’s (or even God’s) control, she could take this shortcut to moral independence. What a temptation! What woman could resist that? I’m sure her new knowledge and worldliness was appealing to Adam as well, since it offered him also the chance to “be like god”. This has been tempting to all men under anyone else’s control ever since.

7) Adam was tempted not by a thing, but by a now-knowledgeable, naked Eve who was now able to dangle her fruit in front of him in ways he’d never thought of… what man could resist that? (The biggest selling Sports Illustrated edition every year has nothing to do with sports. Just sayin’.).

The writer of Genesis created a depiction of temptation and sin that has endured not just for centuries, but for millennia! Not only is the Genesis story mythological and archetypical, it is also still applicable. We still get messages that encourage our independence and selfishness more than ever. The next time the crafty old serpent tempts you to question what God has said, be reminded of John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

Somewhere in the Garden, Eve was left alone to hear
The devious, crafty Serpent as he whispered in her ear:
“Has God been over-bearing? Has He said you must not eat
Of the Tree of Good and Evil? I have heard its fruit is sweet!”
Then Eve embraced temptation, and a tiny bite was taken;
Her heart and eyes were opened, but eternity was shaken.
The Garden trembled that the Word of God had been forsaken…
Then Eve combined the fruit with all the new things that she knew,
And Adam fell under her spell, and soon was eating, too!
They suddenly knew many things, and suddenly felt shame;
And after that, the world they knew would never be the same.
Temptation still appears today, and offers us its fruit–
That thing on Pinterest that we want, or a beautiful birthday suit–
So if temptation comes your way, and craftily deceives,
Hold fast to things that Jesus taught, and be one who believes.
Sin can change your world just like with Adam’s. And with Eve’s.

 

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

Being Courageous has Nothing to Do with Being Big and Strong

There are times in life when people need courage. Sometimes it’s because they have chosen to face danger, and sometimes it’s because danger has chosen them. We are often inspired by the courage of those people, and hope that we too could stay strong in the midst of adversity. The Bible’s message on this is pretty simple: You, too, can be Strong and Courageous, and it has nothing to do with your strength or resources.

courageous

[Moses said] “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

As Moses transferred leadership to Joshua, this was his advice. The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, where the inhabitants appeared to be stronger than they felt themselves to be. They were leaving the familiar and going into the unknown. They were facing uncertainty, hardship, change, and difficulty. So in this sermon, Moses told them to be strong and courageous—and why? Was it because they had a better army? Stronger men? Better logistics?

No. Moses told them they could be courageous, not because of their OWN sufficiency, but because THE LORD was going before them, and He would never leave them or forsake them. Pretty good advice, based on an eternal foundation: don’t be courageous based on self-sufficiency or what you know; be courageous because of WHO you know.

John’s epistle said that perfect love casts out fear, and that God is love. It stands to reason that any time we accept God’s love we can become fearless! Are you entering a season of uncertainty and Insecurity? Be strong and courageous, because the Lord is with you. Dealing with change? Be strong and courageous, because the Lord is with you. Having to battle disease or health issues? Then this is pretty good advice for you, too.

This verse doesn’t promise that the trouble will disappear, or that we can hope in circumstances; it tells us to be strong because GOD is with us. When we appropriate His presence by faith, it offers us calm in the storm and assurance in the valley of the shadow. In the places we feel most alone, He will never leave us. In our greatest uncertainty, we can be sure of Him. We can take courage, not in our own strength and sufficiency, but in the Lord our God, who goes before us and stands beside us. As David said, “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26) When your flesh and heart fail, fall in love with God. Be strong. Take courage from your Father, and be encouraged today!

If you face uncertain times, and have to deal with fear,
The Bible has a word for you. I’m going to write it here:
Be strong, and be courageous, not because of what you know,
But because the Lord is with you everywhere you go.
Whatever happens in your life, wherever it may take you,
Your Father’s endless love will never leave you or forsake you.
His love is warm and comforting; in fact, it is contagious.
Allow His strength to help you to be strong, and be courageous.

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

 

Standards that Set the Bar: How Do We Compare to Them, America?

God has High Standards. Do you ever stop and think about how those might apply to everyday life here in the good old USA? We probably have laws that say some of the same stuff, but the Bible certainly doesn’t lower the bar when it comes to how we should live:
“‘Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.
Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
Do not defraud or rob your neighbor…
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly…” (Leviticus 19:11-15, NIV)

Leviticus 19 lists various laws that deal with how we treat one another. This list offers a pretty good plumb-line to set against a culture, and how much that culture reflects the design and character of God.

standards

A godly society would tell the truth, would respect its Creator, would be unselfish and honest with neighbors, and would not oppress those who have special needs. Its justice system would be unbiased, treating all participants fairly and equally. I bet if you took a poll, the vast majority of folks here in America would agree that those standards represent how we should live. So, take a look around.

Here in America, how are we doing on this scorecard? Stealing? Lots of it. Lying and deception? Wow, probably more than at ANY period in our history. Profanity and swearing? Oops. (It’s become common on TV, and has even snuck into widely-seen advertising…) Theft? Check. Taking care of less fortunate? Been downtown in any major city lately? Seen any homeless folks? Fair and unbiased justice? Not so much. How is it that our country fails to live up to these standards even though most people would agree that they are the way we should live?

I don’t care whether you are talking about Obama’s America or Trump’s America, our standards on these issues is apparently pretty low. I’m not sure how YOU look at it, but at a quick glance I’d say we aren’t doing too well with these laws… kinda sad, isn’t it? Freedom is great because it gives us opportunity, but freedom is really scary because it gives us opportunity.

Even the most casual observer would look at us and say, “Wow, the American culture is  not doing very well when held up to God’s standards…” Each of us can compare that list from Leviticus to our society and find room for improvement. But don’t miss the trees for the forest. Focus a bit more, and read that list again. Hold those standards up not to America, but just to YOURSELF. Look at the standards; look in the mirror. Then be honest! (Well the list says to be, right off the top, doesn’t it?). Stop and compare God’s standards not to culture in general, but to yourself. As Joey Tribbiani would say, “How YOU doin’?”

The law says “Do not steal or practice false dissemination;
It says to treat our fellow man with due consideration.
It tells us not to lie or steal, it says that God is strong and real,
That justice isn’t what we feel, but a Holy God’s creation.
The Bible sets the standards that a Holy God expects;
His character is what the Bible and the law reflects.
Everything that’s written there is true and just and right and fair,
Suggesting that we all should care for those whom it protects.
The law is good for everyone, but just to make it clearer:
It works the best when you decide to read it to the mirror.

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

 

The Really Dumb People who were Blessed but not Satisfied

Once there were some people who were never satisfied: Stop Me if You’ve Heard this Before…
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:10-12, NIV)

The Israelites under Moses’ leadership were a study in contrasts, and no matter what happened, it seems they were never satisfied. They were miraculously delivered from slavery, and yet were ready to go back to their old lives at the first sign of trouble. They reversed their field and went from rejoicing to rebellion in Exodus 15:24 (“the people grumbled against Moses”), and again in Exodus 16:3 (“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!”).

satisfied

They followed Moses like children but then were ready to kill him in 17:4. They saw God’s hand at work in their lives in miraculous ways, and then forgot it almost immediately, expressing themselves in both public and private grumbling and complaining. They were blessed but not satisfied.

They hungered for the way things used to be, with appetites for things of the flesh rather than things of the Spirit. They blamed their leaders instead of having faith in the Lord. They longed for the comforts of slavery back in the fleshpots of Egypt, and kept turning away from the adventure of a life of faith. At times they wished they were back in bondage to Pharaoh—a god of this world—instead of walking in freedom with God.

Can you believe these guys? How could anybody be so stupid? I’m sure you get it by now, but these guys are us. We are blessed but not satisfied; we can walk in freedom with God, but often choose bondage with the devil; we blame our leaders instead of following them; we vaguely hunger for spiritual maturity, but usually choose instead the temporary satisfaction of old habits and persistent, selfish sin. The journey of the inconsistent, immature, worldly, unfaithful Israelites is like a mirror given to us so that we can see how to walk with God. How are you doing? Learn. Walk. Be happy.

There were folks who once received a blessing
But still lived life as something just worth messing,
Who always needed help and some confessing…
They walked with God Himself along the way,
And had the chance to see Him every day.
Why, they could go right up to Him and pray!
And yet they usually treated Him casually,
Or intellectually, failing to really see
How much He longed to be close to them, personally.
They left theology for some debauchery,
Sinned with ubiquity, Lived in iniquity–
How could this ever be?? Guess what? It’s you and me.

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

 

Real Leaders Have to Be Willing to Let Leaders Lead

The Bible contains some pretty good advice for leaders. “Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” (Exodus 18:17-22 NASB)

Moses’ father-in-law is introduced in Exodus 2:18 as Reuel, which means “friend of God”. He was a Midianite priest who was also called Jethro, which was probably a title of respect, meaning “excellency.” He was a devout man who celebrated Moses’ return from Egypt with burnt offerings, and said in Exodus 18:11, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” It must have been a bit of a surprise to him that Moses left as one of his shepherds and came back as the ruler of thousands and thousands of Israelites, but as he observed his son-in-law try to manage things, Jethro could see that Moses needed some help. He greeted Moses with enthusiasm and then offered him this wise counsel in verses 17-22.

The Bible is full of good, practical advice about leadership, and it offers many examples of good management technique. In this case, Moses was doing what many bosses assume: “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. As a result, Moses was wearing himself out as the sole judge and arbiter for all of the Israelites, conducting daily hearings to help settle disputes among all of the people.

Jethro, his father-in-law, counseled him to 1) educate the people about God’s statutes and laws; 2) select godly leaders who loved the truth, and 3) lighten his workload by sharing the burden of leadership. If you have a leadership position, if God has given you a task, then think like Jethro and act like Moses. Surround yourself with honest, godly people who will exercise their own gifts and abilities to share the burden and lighten the load. Just make sure you look for the right qualifications. Jethro

said, “…select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain.” That’s actually a pretty strong list, and if you applied those qualifications to a business, or a church, or to, say, Congress, how many leaders would ACTUALLY be left to lead? I think Moses’ problem today would be in finding enough able men who fear God, love truth, and hate dishonest gain. But asking if others have those qualifications as leaders is really the SECOND question. The first question is, would YOU qualify? If you lead anyone, anywhere—if you are a mom, a dad, a boss, a teacher, a friend, whatever—those are the qualities you should pray for, and hope you see not just in others but also when you look in the mirror.

Jethro watched the way that Moses managed
And felt that he was somewhat disadvantaged.
He said, My son, Don’t try to do it all,
You’ll soon discover you will hit the wall,
And jeopardize your mission and your health:
Instead of doing all the work yourself,
Select some honest, godly men to lead
And it will give you all the help you need.”
Moses followed Jethro’s plan to lead,
And found a better platform to succeed.
If working hard’s not getting us what we need,
Perhaps that’s something all of us should heed.
Choose on godliness, if you can see it;
And best, for godly leadership, just be it.

To buy my latest book, 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

 

To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice; But Why is Obedience So Hard?

“Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” (Exodus 19:3-6, NKJV)

When God called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of slavery, He gave them the evidence of mighty works that literally changed their world. He covered them with grace and offered them His Presence. He promised that they would be His own special treasure out of all the people on the earth. He delivered them from a lifetime of servitude to an ungodly master, and He formed a covenant with them that would last forever. Sound familiar? He did ask for something in return. These verses contain an “if-then” clause, making the fulfilment of the promises somewhat conditional. God said, “If you will indeed OBEY My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me…” Apparently God really values obedience.

I guess it makes sense that we should be obedient, but the Bible (not to mention all of our current headlines) is pretty much the story of how we have NOT obeyed Him, starting with Adam and Eve. Pharaoh had a pretty sweet deal, what with all the slaves to build stuff and serve him. Imagine if he had said, “I think I’ll obey this God of the Israelites. Maybe if I take good care of these chosen people and follow this God, I can get some of this blessing for me.” His deal could have gotten even sweeter. But “Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should OBEY him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2)

He wasn’t willing to obey the Living God, and he came to an inglorious and ignominious end. (Yeah I know, how often do you get to use the word ‘ignominious’? But if you aren’t obedient, it could happen to you…)The practice of animal sacrifice was designed as a graphic reminder of sin’s penalty and it became a focal point for the Hebrew religion, and yet Samuel said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

When rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, the Levites under Nehemiah told all the people why they had come to such a desolate state. Their public ceremony praised God for his deliverance, and included this reminder: “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not OBEY your commands.” (Nehemiah 9:16) The whole Bible is full of examples of disobedience and consequences. “But wait”, you say. “Why are you talking so much about disobedience to me? I’m New Testament. I’m under Grace.”

Well, consider what Jesus said: “Anyone who loves me will OBEY my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) Apparently faith always results in obedience. Do you believe in Jesus? Yes. Well, then, how’s that obedience thing going? Do you realize he even included obedience as an important part of the Great Commission? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

I’m a little worried sometime that we have cheapened Grace by emphasizing how free it is, while failing to remember that our faith naturally results in our obedience to God. Have you seen God do something in your life? Do you say you have a relationship with Him? Well, just ask yourself one question: Are you obeying God? As you take spiritual inventory every now and then, it’s a great question to ask.

Here’s something no one likes to say,
Or much less, DO. And that’s OBEY.
It’s what God told the Israelites
Would please Him more than sacrifice;
It’s just how Pharaoh wouldn’t bend
That brought his ignominious end…
And here’s a different thought, my friend:
Although your Testament is the New,
It also still applies to YOU.
But you protest: “That’s out of place!
I’m free! I’m covered up by Grace!
I disobey God now and then,
But really, Jesus is my friend!”
Well here’s what Jesus has to say:
“To obey is love, and to love, obey.
There really is no other way.”
Obey. Today and every day.
Read your Bible. All I’m sayin’
Is just that Jesus wasn’t playin’.

 

To buy my latest book, 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=1472300960&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle version, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1472300960&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

The Little Dash In the Incomplete Prayer: What Does It Mean, and Why Is It There?

“The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin— (why is this dash here?) but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:30-32, NIV). There is something important in this verse that’s easy to overlook. It’s the dash.

The summer of 1972 I had the privilege of working as a counselor at the Navigators’ Eagle Lake Boy’s Camp near Colorado Springs. It was a rustic, beautiful camp high in the mountains where boys would come from all over the nation to experience hiking, rappelling, pioneering and living in a teepee for a week (made all the more authentic by the fact that our “facilities” were outhouses). The camp staff was an awesome group of guys, and the experiences were second to none. We rappelled, built stuff with logs and twine, and had mountaintop experiences every day.

What has stayed with me longest from that summer are the lessons learned from several of the Navigator leaders like Lorne Sanny and Leroy Eims who came out from Glen Eyrie and taught us from time to time. Their insights into Scripture and the practical way they applied it are still foundational for me 43 years later. Leroy Eims taught us this passage, and pointed out the almost humorous exchange between God and Moses in Verses 7 and 10. “And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For YOUR people whom YOU brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” Moses’ answer was classic, almost like two parents whose child has done something wrong, so that neither parent wants to claim responsibility. “Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against YOUR people whom YOU have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” The way Moses interacted with God is marvelous, and certainly provides us some solid principles about how to pray: be candid; be fully expressed; be persistent.

Even more than these verses, though, is the principle revealed by the dash. Mr. Eims pointed out that in verse 32, there was this odd grammatical anomaly: “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” He read that verse, and then he asked us, “What’s the dash for?”(Of course, none of us had ever really noticed the dash or given it any thought.) He told us, “The dash represents a pause by the speaker, but it doesn’t really explain why. It’s there, but it doesn’t tell us WHY it’s there. I believe that as Moses was praying for his people, as he contemplated the consequences of what they had done, he was overcome with emotion and broke down, unable to continue. He was so overcome with grief and empathy that he couldn’t even complete his sentence. When he regained his composure, he finished by putting his own eternal security on the line for his people.”

Leroy Eims told us about the secret of the dash. It represented powerful emotions! It showed how much Moses cared about the children of Israel! When was the last time you broke down in tears and were unable to complete a sentence because you were praying so passionately? And who do you care about SO much that you can’t lift them up to the Lord without getting teary-eyed? Who is in your dash? Yes, Moses prayed with honesty and persistence. So should we. But he also prayed with passion and emotion. So should we.

 

The people of Israel made them a calf
So Moses prayed on their behalf 
And asked God His judgment to withhold
Because they had worshipped a calf of gold.
While he was praying and asking for grace,
Tears were streaming from Moses' face
As he considered his nation's fate
Which was too awful to contemplate.
And in his prayer there was a pause;
Maybe it's in there just because,
But really it's kind of a mystery
That's written in Scripture for all to see.
That little dash in the incomplete prayer:
What does it mean, and why is it there?
It's there because Moses couldn't take
The way they would pay for their mistake;
While praying, his shoulders began to shake:
How could Israel be so dumb?
As Moses prayed he was overcome,
And couldn't continue because of his tears,
His love for them, and his greatest fears,
And he asked for his own life to be traded
In hopes that judgment could be abated.
That little dash in the incomplete prayer:
The emotional power residing there
Is more than words could ever show.
Why is the dash there? We don't know,
But someday I will ask Moses why,
And if he broke down and began to cry...
Lord help me give you some prayers with a dash in;
Help me to pray with emotion and passion. 


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

Trading Places: Who Would You Trade Your Own Eternal Life to Save?

In this 1983 comedy, a street hustler named Billy Ray Valentine trades places with the blue-blooded Louis Winthorpe III in a somewhat misguided social experiment. It’s a humorous ( and sometimes inappropriate) look at class and Darwinism, and what might happen if people from different walks of life had to trade places. The Bible also takes a look at trading places, with a slightly different take:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:7-8, NIV)

Consider Moses. While Moses was up on the mountain receiving the law, the children of Israel were down in the valley making a golden calf and celebrating in wildly inappropriate ways. In the middle of this fascinating account of Israel’s pagan idolatry and the Lord’s angry response, God offers Moses a deal: “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Verse 10).

This creates a fascinating bit of tension and opportunity in the life of Moses. Suddenly he was clear and free of the obstinate, rebellious people who complained and rejected his leadership. Suddenly his future and that of his descendants was secure; all he had to do was to accept God’s offer and idolatrous Israel would become the unchosen people.

Yet what did Moses do? “The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:30-32, NIV).

Moses basically said, “Please forgive these knuckleheads, Lord. But if you can’t, “then blot me out of the book you have written.” Let that one sink in for a minute. Who at this time knew more about God’s glory than Moses? Who on earth was most familiar with what heaven was going to be like? Who could anticipate eternity’s rich rewards better than Moses? (NO ONE) And yet Moses offers to trade in his own eternal life on Israel’s behalf, and asks the Lord to include him in the consequences if judgment is to fall.

QUESTION: Who do you love so much that you would trade your eternal life for theirs?

Now consider Paul. In Romans 9:2-3, he says “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Think about Paul for a minute: Who had been confronted on the road to Damascus and called to a personal interaction with Jesus? Who had been caught up into the third heaven to see glories and visions of the heavenly kingdom? Who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain?

And yet Paul offered to trade his place in heaven for his people. He was willing to be cursed from Christ if only his fellow Israelites could be saved. Let THAT sink in for a minute. Moses offered to trade his eternal life for his people; Paul offered to be cursed from Christ for his people. Do you sense a trend here?

Finally, consider Jesus. In Luke 19:41-42, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he WEPT over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…” Jesus got emotional about Jerusalem, and of course we all know that he made the ultimate trade on their behalf… It seems that the closer someone gets to the Lord, the more his or her heart becomes filled with greater empathy and a greater desire to see others enter the Kingdom. The closer we get to the Lord, the more our heart will beat like His. How is your heart? Who do YOU weep for? And who comes to mind when you consider giving away your own eternal life if only they could be saved? Hmm… You might not think of yourself as a minister, but that might just be your call to ministry, right THERE.

 

Israel sinned before the Lord, with judgment sure to fall;
Moses offered up his life if it could save them all.
It's there in Exodus 32 and you can take a look:
"Please save them Lord; if not, then you can blot me from your book."
Paul once said, 'For me to live is Christ, to die is gain"
But then he also said these words, that almost sound insane:
He loved his kinsmen so, he said he would be cursed from Christ
If they could find God's grace by means of what he sacrificed!
Think of everyone you know, and picture all their faces;
For which of them would you consider trading eternal places?
We might think of one we love, and trade our life for theirs,
But what about a jerk? A thief? A crook who never cares?
Consider Christ, and think about the sacrifice he made:
He saw my face, unworthy; and he made the ultimate trade.

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