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

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

This verse from Micah was actually quite surprising. Micah was written to prophesy against Judah, warning them about impending disaster at the hands of Sennacherib’s Assyrian invasion in 701 B.C. His sermons were powerful and disturbing. He said that Lord would come from his dwelling to judge Samaria and Israel so fiercely that “the mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart” (1:7). He used a poetic format to predict disaster and woe against the towns of Judah, playing upon their Hebrew names with a like form of judgment. English translations don’t do every name justice, but each city’s name is used to relate to some aspect of the danger that is coming. For example, the inhabitants of Beth-le-aphrah (“house of dust”) are told to “roll yourselves in the dust.” (1:10) Because Israel’s people were so committed to sin, God told them “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.” (2:3)

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

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

disaster

In a book filled with some pretty harsh prophesy, Micah throws this wonderful little passage in 7:18-19, which contrasts greatly with the rest of his message… Remember, prophecy is a warning of judgment that HASN’T happened yet. The whole purpose of judgment is to call sinners to grace. Righteousness and judgment are pretty much expected from an Almighty, all powerful God who hates sin; and we are all sinners. We may think Micah’s prophecy sounds bad, but IF sin is so destructive, and IF a righteous God can’t stand it, and IF He has warned us to turn to him or face judgment, then technically He is absolutely right to use extreme measures to turn us away from sin.

God has the right to allow sin’s penalty to be enforced. It’s when he throws us this kind of curveball that we scratch our heads and say, “Really? Could this be true?” God pardons iniquity? He passes over rebellious acts? God delights in unchanging love? He has compassion? Yes, He does. Will our “honest” mistakes, our secret selfishness, our willful rebellions, and our repeated iniquities all be tread under God’s feet and thrown into the deepest sea? Yes, they will. The same Judge who pronounces impending doom from the bench has also stepped down to plead our case. 1 John 2:1 says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” If I were you, I’d sign him up as my defense attorney today. There’s a day of judgment coming, and we want to have good representation, don’t we?

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

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

 

Sin Happens, and Sometimes You Have to Work Hard to Accidentally Fall Into It

Sin happens to everybody. We may think somebody is righteous or above the carnal deeds of men, but the Bible says it even happened to “a man after God’s own heart.” “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem…” (2 Samuel 11:1, NIV)

Thus begins the account of perhaps the most famous fall from grace since the Garden of Eden. David, the King of Israel, sent his army out to battle while he stayed back at the palace enjoying all the comforts of home. It’s not like David was cowardly or soft—he was one of the most valiant warriors in Israel’s history—but for whatever reason, he decided to stay home for this campaign. It was the costliest decision he ever made.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” (11:2-4) Apparently David, the man after God’s own heart, also had a heart of his own. He spotted Bathsheba, coveted her, sent for her and slept with her.

Lest we feel too sorry for these victims of circumstance who just “fell into sin”, think about what each of them did. There was a reason why David liked to walk the palace roof. I would imagine he was able to spot more than one woman bathing outside hoping the king might notice, or perhaps he had seen this particular woman before and it was a repeat performance. Bathsheba was apparently no shrinking violet. (Later on, she is ambitious and resourceful in promoting her son Solomon as heir to the throne). The fact that Bathsheba brazenly displayed herself in view of the King suggests an agenda. This was perhaps a calculated effort on her part to draw the King’s eye and favor.

But the story gets worse. She got pregnant. David called Uriah home so he could sleep with her to provide a logical reason why she would be with child when her husband was off to war; the honorable Uriah refused to go in to sleep with his wife while his own men were out in the field. David, feeling a little desperate, then secretly had Uriah isolated in battle so that he would be killed. An admiring look at a bathing beauty turned into lust, betrayal, adultery, and murder. Left alone with time on his hands, David turned his back on his troops, his responsibilities, and his walk with God.

We’ve all been there. Well, maybe you haven’t been exactly where David was, but you have definitely turned your back on God to chase a secret sin. I know I have. Oscar Wilde said “I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to.” We may not want to adhere to Mr. Wilde’s philosophy, but I’m pretty sure each of us has unfortunately found the strength to pursue sin, just like David. Here are a couple of observations taken from his story:

1) When you take yourself away from accountability, responsibility, and good companions, you are vulnerable to sin. My grandmother used to say, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” If you are busy staying close to God and His people, you might be too busy to get into mischief.

2) One thing leads to another. You can start with merely “walking around on the roof of the palace” and end up as an adulterer and a murderer. Never forget that depravity is a progressive condition. Like in so many other things in life, even “baby steps” into sin will take us further into sin.

3) All your past victories over Goliath do not guarantee that you will always make the right choice. If you have been spiritually successful, if you are currently the reigning monarch over all you survey, you are still vulnerable to sin. Stay humble. If David, the man after God’s own heart, could fall into sin by following his own desires, remember: You have a heart of your own, too.

David walked upon the roof, where much to his surprise,
He saw a naked woman bathing right before his eyes.
He took some steps: he sent for her. He called her, and she came;
For them, and for their nation, things would never be the same.
David saw a woman. It’s a story old but true–
Temptation beckons folks to sin in what they say or do–
So tell me: What temptation beckons secretly to YOU?
Beware when something calls you to immerse yourself in sin:
David walked upon the roof. And looked. And he fell in.
If porn or Pinterest beckons you with something you can covet,
Beware of what can happen if your heart decides to love it.
If you think you are not so bad, and need a little proof,
Just look where David ended up by walking on the roof…

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

Hardening of Hearts Has Nothing to do With Arteries

When you work with your hands, your skin can get toughened so much that you form callouses. Then it becomes tougher, harder, and less sensitive. The writer of Hebrews suggests that the same thing can happen to our hearts.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14, NIV)

Having faith in Jesus and being his follower does not make anyone perfect. Even after becoming Christians, it is possible to turn away from the living God and to be subject to a sinful, unbelieving heart. Anyone who has experienced genuine saving faith can never lose their salvation; however, it is possible to turn away from walking with God and to go our own direction. As Christians we do it all the time. We dabble in sin, we even do things over and over because we repeat favorite sins, we rationalize the impact of sin, and we do things “just this once” or “just a little bit”. Maybe it’s fun, maybe it feels good, or maybe it’s what we have always done; but our sinful nature will never truly give in to our Spiritual nature, and like Jason from the Halloween movies it keeps rising up to try to inflict death and destruction. Not every sin is progressive, but can you predict which one will lead to others?

The presence of our carnal nature insures that Christians will never be perfect in this life. The biggest mistakes I have ever made, I have made as a Christian. I know, right? But this passage isn’t just talking about mistakes, it is describing selfish repetition of sin without repentance… It refers to daily stuff that weaves its way into our hearts and minds and won’t let go. Sin can be the covetousness of Pinterest, the lure of porn, the hateful thoughts about some of those idiots out there, or even the smug self-righteousness of feeling more spiritual than others. Those things and more are woven into our lives every day, and if you think about it, the world actually offers us a continual bombardment of sin pelting our hearts with little barbs or subtle temptations.

As a result, our hearts can be hardened to sin, and we end up in places we never thought we’d go. We become calloused to sin, or (like the frog in the pot of tepid water on its way to boiling) comfortable with it a little at a time, by taking small steps into darkness… Generally, we don’t go straight from church to the evil empire, but sin has a cumulative effect, moving us away from the Truth one step at a time. How do we keep from believing those lies and taking those steps? One of the answers is as close as your best Christian friend. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “encourage one another daily.” Who is it that encourages you? Who do you encourage? Someone you know is struggling with something in their life, and could use some kind words. Maybe they’ve wandered into sin, or accepted some of the enemy’s lies about their true value. Encourage them. You may just keep them from ending up with callouses on their heart.

 

Sin bombards us every day as we are trying to make our way--
It sneaks up, peeks up, offers temptation,
Uses multi-media to offer sensation;
Sin calls us in a step at a time:
You're thinking of sin while you're reading this rhyme!
Watch that Pinterest, could be a sin test,
Calling you to look at something of interest,
Then you know you love it so that it makes you covet, though
You'd never admit that it made you kinda lit,
But your heart gets hit, and you sin a little bit...
That's how it starts to harden your heart,
All those little malices building up callouses,
Whether that sin is New York or Dallas's.
Fight against sin, don't let it win,
I'm telling you again don't even let it in.
Encourage one another to do what's right,
Gotta help a brother continue in the fight!
Give a little love with the message that you send,
And it will be enough to help you make it to the end.
It's not fiction, it may cause friction,
But take ahold of Christ and keep your conviction.
There. I said it. So don't you forget it;
Sin will try to win, but don't. You. Let it.

 

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

David Failed: So Why Would We Want to Have a Heart Like His?

David was called “a man after God’s own heart”. It seems impossible that such a flagrant sinner could love God, yet there it is. It hardly makes sense, but when I really think about it, they could say the same thing about me…

 

David Had a Heart Like His

Start with a boy, who, tending sheep,
Beneath the stars, too in love to sleep,
Looks up at the heavens' glistening art,
And comprehends the Creator's heart.

Least regarded, chosen King--
Transformed by a giant, a rock, a sling!
A man who gazed at God above, 
And understood. And fell in love.

Powerful warrior, loyal friend,
Head of the kingdom without end;
Poet, prophet, singer: Dance,
Caught in the grip of God's romance!

Love the Lord and love His word!
Let your songs and praise be heard,
Reaching countless human ears,
Timeless for a thousand years!

But O! That sword can cut two ways:
For those same lips that sang God's praise
Will kiss their way into a fall,
A story shown and know to all...

Scheming, lying, murderous lust;
Broken hearts and broken trust,
Written down for all to see,
Captured for eternity.

Deep your capacity to transgress!
But deeper, a longing to confess:
To bring your contrite, broken heart
Back to the Maker's matchless art.

Honest now, with no pretense,
No vain attempt at self-defense,
Broken as a consequence...
Confessing, teaching us that THIS
Is how to have a heart like His.

Matthew 22:37: “And Jesus said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…” In spite of all the despicable things he did, David loved God honestly and passionately. He’s not a role model because of the way he killed Goliath, or because of his valor in battle. We should pay attention to the way he acted when he failed utterly. If you haven’t been there, you will be. Consider David, and then consider yourself.

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