The Sustenance That Feeds You Where You Need It Most

Sustenance is defined as “food and drink regarded as a source of strength; nourishment; or the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence.” As I’m sure you are all aware, sustenance is vital in this life, and all of us need something to eat. After all, it is what sustains you. But are there different kinds of sustenance? And do we eat what we need?

Jeremiah the prophet described that question in this way: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16, NKJV).

The Apostle Peter said this: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it…” (1 Peter 2:2, NKJV)

Different Kinds of Food

We need sustenance in the form of food or nutrition to grow physically. An important part of any training regimen involves proper fuel that provides the correct nutrients for the body… But how about other types of growth? Intellectual growth requires education and information; social development requires knowledge about etiquette; but what about spiritual growth? How does one sustain a spiritual life?  Besides the verses just mentioned here, there are several times that the Word of God is described as our sustenance or our spiritual food. It’s an interesting analogy, and one that deserves some thought.

First, it indicates that spiritual growth is a process, not something that happens instantly. You don’t eat all the meals of your life in one sitting, and you don’t absorb the Bible that way either. Peter says that we start as immature spiritual beings, and should begin with “the pure milk” of the word, receiving our sustenance in a form we can handle. It’s an analogy that makes sense. You grow in understanding God’s word as you “eat” it and apply it in your life, and it provides your spiritual sustenance.

You Are What You Eat

Second, look in the mirror at your physical self. Then imagine your spiritual self. If God’s word is your spiritual sustenance, then what kind of shape is your spiritual man in? How much sustenance does he or she get? When you look into your spiritual mirror, who do you see?

sustenance

I feed my physical body, (usually more than it requires) and I make sure it gets the fuel it needs to grow and stay strong. It’s easy for us to see the results of feeding our physical man. Now, picture your spiritual man (or woman) in your mind’s eye. He’s up there, waiting for nourishment. His needs are the same as or even greater than your physical body’s. But is he or she strong and healthy? How many meals a week are you feeding HIM (or HER)? For most of us, I’d bet that our “spiritual self” is just wasting away, looking like a prison camp refugee, half-starved and emaciated. Our spiritual self is weak and listless, propped over in a corner just waiting for the preacher to spoon-feed them their weekly meal…

Come to the Banquet

If God’s word is our spiritual food, we should be sitting at the banquet table enjoying a feast each day, not waiting for someone else to toss us a crust of bread every once in a while. Think about your poor spiritual body, and consider feeding it a little life-giving nourishment. Sit down and have a spiritual meal every so often.

Jeremiah says that if you do, a couple of things will happen. First, God’s words provide a reason to live with joy and rejoicing in your heart. Not a bad outcome if you’d like a little more JOY in your life! And second, Jeremiah says he was identified with God. He was called by God’s name, which means he was in the family, fully adopted as an heir—another positive result and another reason to rejoice. So eat. Grow. Rejoice. Repeat.

Eat Well, and Live

Look into your spiritual mirror. Who is looking back?
Are they strong, or is there maybe something that they lack?
If the Word of God is food, how often are they eating?
Do they get nutrition in the meals that you are feeding?
Can you, like Jeremiah, say the Word of God is filling?
Do you really want some? You can get it, if you’re willing.
You can say with him, “Thy Words were found, and I did eat them”,
And folks will sense a godly spirit in you when you meet them.
Remember this: the word of God is food, and it is real.
Your spiritual man should eat some every day, at every meal.

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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Speaking Out: As for Us, We Cannot Help Speaking about What we have Seen and Heard

After Jesus was crucified, Peter and John were out speaking in public about recent events. Not everybody wanted to hear what they had to say, and in fact their religious and cultural leaders told them they had to stop speaking. Here’s how it went down:

“Then they (the Sanhedrin) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20 NIV)

speaking

Peter and John, whom Luke described as “ignorant and unlearned men”, were called before the Sanhedrin and told they needed to stop telling people about Jesus. If they didn’t stop, the Sanhedrin would take action: they could be arrested, imprisoned, perhaps even stoned. But for some reason they were not intimidated, and proclaimed boldly that they could not help but speak out about what they had seen and heard. I have often thought that the main reason Christianity is around today is because the followers of Jesus were so overwhelmed with the magnitude of what happened that they could not keep from telling people about it.

Tell me, what have YOU seen and heard? Has the good news about Jesus been validated in your life? Are you different because of it? We also find ourselves in many places and social contexts that make it feel uncomfortable or prohibitive to discuss our faith candidly and without reservation. We have separation of church and state. We are told that God has no place in our schools. More and more, God is being taken out of our public lives,,,

Should we pray at a restaurant? Should we mention our faith at work? Should we obey the current culture of tolerance, which suggests that we not offend anyone with our beliefs? Or should we speak boldly about what we have seen and heard? Every day, in so many little ways, we are faced with a choice– to be cultural or to be godly. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”! And as he wrote to the Thessalonians, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV) If you’ve seen it, you believe it. If you believe it, speak it.

Little Choices

John and Peter were rebuked for telling what they knew;
The Pharisees commanded them to stop their preaching, too!
But they replied, “We’ve said it once, we’ll say it now again,
Should we obey the Lord our God, or listen to you men?”
The Council was surprised by John and Peter’s forceful word;
They said they had to testify to what they’d seen and heard.
This story is still relevant, although it’s very old:
John and Peter’s actions should inspire us to be bold–
To speak the truth, to testify about what God has done–
Not bowing to the many, but obedient to the One.

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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Marvelous Men Had One Thing in Common. YOU can Be Marvelous, Too!

Wanna Be Marvelous? It doesn’t always happen by the world’s standards…
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 KJV)

marvelous

Have you ever been marveled at? In our culture, we think people are “marvelous” for all kinds of reasons, and most of those reasons are shallow and temporary. You wouldn’t think that a couple of grubby fishermen would be marvelous, but it happened…

Peter and John were fishermen by trade, and held no advanced theological degrees or education. By all rights they should have returned to Galilee after Jesus’ crucifixion and gone back to their vocation, finding good spots and hauling up nets full of fish. Yet within days of the crucifixion, they were in the religious and cultural center of Judea, way out of their depth both politically and socially. You might say that if they didn’t fall off of no turnip truck, it was because they rode it all the way into town!

They didn’t belong in the Temple anymore than a rube from the country belongs on the red carpet at the Academy Awards; yet in Jerusalem, they boldly proclaimed the gospel without fear or hesitation, and thousands of people were responding to their message that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Sanhedrin, who were the religious leaders and seminary graduates, was alarmed by their success and took counsel about how to stop this surprising movement. Luke says that these learned religious power brokers marveled at the powerful preaching from “unlearned and ignorant men”. They thought Peter and John were, yes, marvelous. What made Peter and John so amazing? Their speech was rough and they spoke with Galilean accents that identified them as hicks from the sticks. What made them “marvelous” to the learned Rabbis of the day, who surely looked down upon these two raw preachers with an air of superiority and surprise? Peter and John hadn’t been to seminary, and they weren’t clergymen or trained experts in evangelism. They weren’t even Junior College graduates. They were unlearned and ignorant, yet they were changing the world. Their common denominator is one that YOU also share. Wanna be marvelous? Spend time with Jesus.

Marvelous Men

Peter and John had never been to college,
Yet they astounded people with their knowledge.
No seminary, no advanced degrees,
But they contended with the Pharisees.
The only thing about them folks could tell
Was that their Rabbi taught them really well;
They had no other formal education,
And fishing was their background and vocation,
But they were marvelous. As ignorant men,
Uneducated by the standards then,
They may have seemed to be a bit too rough,
But they had been with Jesus. That’s enough.

 

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

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NIV)

refreshing
Peter’s exhortation to onlookers in Acts 3 echoes his sermon in Acts 2, and it contains a simple message that resonated through the prophets, the Gospels, and the book of Acts: Repent! It’s the kind of dramatic message that calls us to make drastic changes and live differently. But do we really like listening to this kind of sermon?

I know he preached repentance, and I know we are supposed to turn away from our sin. It’s what Peter preached, it’s what John the Baptist preached, and it’s even what Jesus preached as he initiated his public ministry. (So, it’s in the New Testament a LOT.)

Maybe like most people, I don’t always embrace repentance the way I could or should. If somebody tells me I need to repent then it means I am doing something wrong, and if I accept the admonition to repent it implies that I need correction, and am failing somehow. It seems like a drastic admission and a drastic move, especially in a public setting where I have to broadcast my failure to everyone.

And for the record, these sermons weren’t feel-good platitudes, they were personal challenges that shook people up and called for immediate response, right there in front of God and everybody. Peter meant business. The image of the crazy guy with a beard holding a sign on the street corner comes to mind: REPENT! Do we take repentance as seriously as they did in Acts? It’s really kind of scary to consider making a public statement like that…

refreshing

I’ve always been focused on the negative side of that equation: I’m doing wrong, so I have to change. I need to do business with God. God is mad at me and I better give up my evil ways or I will pay the price. But I hadn’t really noticed part “B”—the result of repentance, “so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Our motivation to repent doesn’t have to focus exclusively on the negative.

Yes we need to humble ourselves, to keep it real, and to be honest before the Lord. But instead of thinking about repentance as what we need to turn FROM, maybe we should remember who we are turning TO. Peter says that we should repent to clear the decks, to have our sins wiped out, to BE REFRESHED. What, exactly, does that mean? “Times of refreshing from the Lord”?

Think about the upside of repentance: a cold drink in the shade in the middle the desert, or a taste of mint after something bitter. Imagine a delicious breeze on a muggy day, a freshening wind that invigorates and cools, blowing away the humidity and the stale, stagnant air of inactivity… Imagine newborn joy, fresh delight, first love… those are the fruits of repentance. Maybe the crazy guy on the street corner needs to be holding a sign that says, REFRESH! That’s what awaits us. Had a tough week? Repent! Been slogging through a hard time? Repent! Bored, tired, stale, impatient, dissatisfied? You know what to do…

Repentance is Refreshing?

When I think “repent” I think of brokenness and sin;
I think of feeling guilty for the mess I’ve gotten in.
I often think of standing there before the Righteous Judge,
Afraid that in my sentencing, from judgment He won’t budge!
I think about repenting, (I confess it has me stressing),
Forgetting that the Prodigal Father loves to offer blessing,
And loves to throw away my guilt to offer me refreshing!
When we approach the Father with a heart of true repentance,
Remember that He longs to put refreshment in your sentence.
No matter where you’ve run from God, if you will just repent,
He’ll offer you His open arms, and you’ll be glad you went.

 

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 Miserable Failure who Became Amazingly Successful

There was once a miserable failure who turned into a smashing success. You may know some of this story, but every now and then it’s good to remember all of it.
Peter’s testimony wasn’t limited to a few bold proclamations made in Jesus’ presence, such as the one we discussed yesterday; he continued to testify later in his life. His later statements are made all the more remarkable because of what happened the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested and handed over to be tried.

After making bold predictions of steadfast loyalty, Peter denied even knowing Jesus during Christ’s trial at Caiaphas’ house, and left there a broken man, as described in Matthew 26:75. The Bible says he was so ashamed of himself that he “wept bitterly.” (I guess betraying your best friend can make you do that…). I called Peter a “miserable failure” because I cannot imagine that he ever felt more worthless than he did after turning his back on his best friend…

failure

Following this devastating personal failure, he was restored by the resurrection and encouragement of Jesus, recorded in John 21. If Jesus had not appeared to Peter after the resurrection, who knows where Peter’s story would have gone? In fact, if there had been no resurrection, Peter would have lived the rest of his life in remorse and failure… The broken, cowardly fisherman might not have ever appeared in public again, and he would have been remembered primarily as the disciple who let Jesus down.

Apparently, though, he took courage from Jesus during a visit after the resurrection by the Sea of Galilee, and took his place again as a leader among the disciples. So it was he who stood up in Jerusalem to deliver the first sermon at Pentecost, and said this about the man he had denied knowing: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know… God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:22, 32, NIV)

Peter the failure became Peter the brave! Peter, who betrayed his best friend and wept bitterly, became Peter the powerful witness. The coward became the communicator! Peter the professional fisherman became Peter the prophet. He was not depending on his own merit to stand up and preach, he was depending on the facts about Jesus. While he lost confidence about himself, he gained confidence in Christ.

Perhaps you have had some failure regarding being loyal to Jesus; the Lord knows I have. In point of fact, I’ve made all of my biggest mistakes in life as a Christian. Like Peter, I have made bold promises about my commitment and then failed, even to the point of weeping bitterly. Perhaps you have experienced that too…

But that doesn’t have to be the end of our story. Just like Peter, we can be reclaimed and restored. The amazing thing about giving testimony is that it doesn’t depend on our success or worthiness, or what we’ve accomplished. A testimony is just giving the facts. It depends on what Jesus did, and the confidence we can have in HIM. If there is ANY difference in your life because you know Jesus, then speak up! It’ll preach.

The Failure  Who Succeeded

Peter failed like all the rest, confronted with his greatest test:
In spite of his pretentious boast, he failed the man he loved the most.
His courage slept, his faith was swept, his loyal promise was not kept,
And after he was so inept–a broken man– he went and wept!.
That should have been the final act, but this is a historical fact:
Peter’s life was somehow changed, and everything was rearranged!
The risen Lord said, “Do not weep. It’s time for you to feed my sheep.”
So Peter stood and boldly preached, and folks from everywhere were reached;
Though Peter’s life had been a mess, he was redeemed, and found success!
So if you ever fell apart, the Lord can help you make a start:
He has a plan for every heart where even failures play a part!

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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Promises You Should Know, Promises You Should Claim!

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” (2 Peter 1:4, NIV)

promises

How long has it been since you explored the promises of God? According to BibleInfo.com, someone has counted 3573 promises in the Bible. Bible Gateway.com lists 127 uses of the word promise in the NKJV. How many of them do you know? How many have you claimed?

According to Peter, God has given us “great and precious” promises that enable us to share in his divine nature. What promises do you think Peter had in mind when he wrote this? Was he thinking of God’s promises to Noah, Abram, Moses, and David? As Christians, those promises extend to us, and God’s covenant with them is also His new covenant with us. Are you familiar with the terms and promises of the covenant? They are part of God’s precious promises to YOU.

Peter would have been familiar with the law and the prophets; and he would have certainly been familiar with the teachings of Jesus. (You remember, Peter’s best friend, Rabbi, mentor, hero, redeemer…) Maybe he was thinking of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He may have been thinking of Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” He may have been reflecting on Pentecost and thinking of what Jesus said in John 16:7: “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

There are so many precious promises that applied to Peter but that also apply to YOU. Do you know them? Have you claimed them? Perhaps he thought of God’s ability to provide peace in a violent world: Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed upon Thee; because he trusts in Thee.” Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). Are you peaceful? Do you believe God’s promises enough to find peace when circumstances dictate otherwise?

God’s word offers more than promises about peace; it offers ways to deal with success and failure. Peter, who was a passionate and impetuous man, experienced extreme highs and lows in his relationship with Jesus. In the same chapter when Jesus promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16), Jesus also rebuked him as worldly, calling him “Satan”. Peter was willing to take up a sword to defend Jesus and yet denied him on the same night. Peter the leader became Peter the loser; and Peter the disciple became Peter the denier. After he refused to identify with his Lord, the three synoptic gospels record that Peter “wept bitterly”–not the kind of response you’d expect from a man who was tuned in to God’s promises…

John recorded the way Peter was restored by Jesus by the Sea of Galilee (John 21), but he also took note of what Jesus said in verses 18-19: “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” Circumstances were not always going to be easy for Peter, but I bet he claimed God’s great and precious promises to the very end, and I bet he thought of something else written by his good friend John, the most important promise of all:
“And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” (1 John 2:25, NKJV) It’s a pretty good promise, and John says it belongs not just to Peter, but to us! Know it. Claim it.

Peter made the brashest boast, then failed the man he loved the most;
There in the courtyard, he denied his friend and had to run and hide,
A broken man who could not keep his promise, and it made him weep.
But later Peter was restored to service by the Risen Lord:
So Peter preached at Pentecost to thousands who had once been lost!
Despite his prior, bitter tears, he led the church for many years,
As proof of God’s amazing grace, redeemed again from his disgrace.
Full of power, grace and glory, this is God’s redemptive story;
That we should all be witnesses to great and precious promises,
That lift us far from our mistakes. God’s promises are all it takes.

 

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