Resolutions for the OTHER kind of New Year’s Health and Fitness

A whole bunch of people out there are going to make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get in better shape, and make improve they way they look. (And I’m one of ’em!)
It’s Day One of a brand New Year, when everyone resolves to make some changes and get stuff done! A lot of folks look in the mirror and decide to make some improvements. Workout clubs will be full and optimism will be high! We all know the gym population thins back out (ironic) in February as muscles ache and enthusiasm wanes… Maybe it’s time to come up with some new resolutions for New Year’s!

resolutions

People work hard on getting back in shape. (My own problem when it comes to fitness is that I am usually concerned with “fitness donut into my mouth”!) Even though resolutions to lose weight often fail, at the beginning of 2019 Nancy and I committed to changing our nutritional habits and getting in better shape. Our results have been pretty good, actually, and I’m proud that we have stuck to our physical fitness goals for a full year! Just focusing on our goals one day at a time has helped us keep our resolutions and get into some smaller clothes!

But stop to consider that there is more than one kind of fitness. Physical fitness is certainly desirable, but don’t forget to work on your mental and spiritual fitness as well! When you start writing those New Year’s resolutions this year, try to think of more than just your outward appearance. Build some spiritual muscle along with those physical ones.

Jeremiah says, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them.” Peter says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it.” The Bible, it seems, is our spiritual food! So try this– if you drew a picture of your “spiritual man (or woman)”, based solely on how many spiritual meals you get each week (that one small meal at church seems kinda small now, doesn’t it?), then what kind of shape are you in? Is your spiritual man or woman robust and healthy, or are you a poor refugee who is starving?
Maybe it would be good to feed them a few meals that provide spiritual sustenance. Here are a few suggestions from a book filled with wise sayings:

“Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV)

“Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord; Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” (Lamentations 3:40-41, NKJV)
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the Lord God of hosts will be with you…” (Amos 5:14, NKJV)

“And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”. (Colossians 3:23 NKJV)

“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV)

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NKJV)

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 KJV)

There are LOTS of other good resolutions in there, and hey, it’s a new year! Feel free to dig into that book and find your own. Then work on them a little bit every day. Your spiritual man (or woman!) will thank you for it!

The Wimpy Spiritual Man

Somewhere, in the corners of your mind
Your spiritual man sits weakened, frail, and blind;
You treat him like you really never need him,
And rarely work him out, or even feed him!
He really only asks for your permission
To have him work beside you on your mission.
So this year, when you’re making resolutions,
Remember your poor spiritual constitution:
Work him out a little every day,
Encourage him to venture out and play!
Here’s a little challenge, then, for you:
Feed your spiritual man a meal or two.
You’ll be surprised at all that he can do!
When he gets stronger, you’ll be stronger too.

 

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

Evil Days Call for Wise Living. Are The Days Still Evil? Do You Live Wisely?

Here’s some advice as we get ready for a brand new year: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV)

Before Paul says we should always be thankful, he tells us to live wisely because the days are evil. We are starting a brand New Year, but are we really starting with a clean slate? In a day characterized by wars and political strife, dishonest leadership, licentious sexual practices, and rampant sexual abuse by men in government, Paul certainly understood evil days. Christians and gladiators were killed in the Colosseum for entertainment; men celebrated homosexuality and even kept young boys as concubines, and racial and social discrimination were rampant everywhere. Evil was so common it didn’t even make front-page headlines in the pagan Roman-occupied world. (Wait, what? Did all that sound familiar?)

As for the other part of his statement, are you living wisely? Would you look at your life and say that you make pretty wise choices? That question is really a little more difficult than it seems. Where do find your wisdom? If there was a Book of Wisdom, would you read it? How much wisdom are you exposed to every day? What type of wisdom are you counting on when you have to make choices? (Remember, Eve ate the apple partly because she saw that it imparted wisdom…there are some things the world counts as wise that really aren’t.

Paul draws that distinction about the world’s view of the cross in 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 when he quotes Isaiah 29:14, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”). In the Biblical definition, true wisdom only comes from God—and if it isn’t godly, it isn’t good…

Do you know what Proverbs says about wisdom? What Jesus taught? What James said? Do you subjugate your temporary needs for long-term results? Do you seek first what God wants, or what YOU want? There is a lot to consider. Here in Ephesians, Paul also says we should understand what the Lord’s will is. How does one gain understanding of THAT? In Romans 12:2 he offers a clue when he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God’s will won’t be found in the world’s values. It resides in spiritual insights that only come from the renewal of your mind. Tell me, what will you be doing in 2020 to renew your mind with wisdom? I’ll finish this thought by asking two questions: First, do you think the days still qualify as evil?

devil evil    evil legalism kills

Put another way, are men in 2020 still as selfish, evil, and corrupt as they were when Paul wrote those words in the first century AD? (If you consider the hatred and lack of integrity on BOTH sides of American politics, the rise of ISIS as a murderous pseudo-religious state, the racism that still exists across our planet, and the genocide CURRENTLY TAKING PLACE in Somalia, Burundi, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, and Nigeria, the answer is fairly obvious).

With that in mind, the second question is: Do you understand what the Lord’s will is for you? Chances are, if the answer is yes to the first question, it’s even more important to be able to answer the second one.

Hindsight is 2020

The days were evil, way back when, and the world was full of evil men
Who violated public trust and loved to exercise their lust.
He didn’t put it into rhyme, but Paul said to redeem the time,
To live in wisdom every day, prepared for what would come your way.
Today, the calendar has moved but men have really not improved!
So… Are you ready? Are you wise? Can you see evil in disguise?
Can you see things through Wisdom’s eyes?
We live in a fallen world that’s evil still.
Be wise, and live within the Father’s will.

 

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

Bread of Life: What are You Eating? How’s Your Appetite?

Over the last couple of days, I have mentioned the fact that Jesus made seven great “I am” Statements in John, so here they are: I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door; I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth, and the life; and I am the true vine. Let’s take a look at them to see if perhaps they can tell us something more about who He is…

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35, NIV) This statement was made to an adoring crowd right after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Since Jesus had just fed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and since fast food had not yet put a restaurant on every corner, the crowd was following him around hoping for another free meal.

bread of life

In verse 7 Philip said “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Food was not plentiful in occupied Judea, and many people lived hand-to-mouth. A miracle-working man who was able to feed a huge crowd became an instant magnet for curious crowds, and the people who had just been treated to an all-you-can-eat buffet were lining up for seconds. While the crowd is excited about another meal, Jesus redirects his followers from their stomachs to their hearts…

The image of eating bread was certainly common enough in first-century Judea, and it is one that everyone could relate to. It was a staple of life and certainly an important part of the nutritional pyramid there in Galilee. But a quick glance through Scripture reminds us that it was also a spiritual metaphor as well, and often referred to something other than what they served for lunch and dinner.

When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he told the devil, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He is talking here again about spiritual food, just as he was pointing the crowd to eternal sustenance that will never fail. He is reminding them of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness from Exodus 16, of Melchizedek’s offering of loaves and wine in Genesis 14, of David eating the show-bread from the temple in 1 Samuel 21, and of God’s fundamental connection to everyday life (“Give us this day our daily bread”, Matthew 6:11.)

Jesus offered himself as spiritual food to the crowd, and challenged them to move beyond the moment into eternity. He also offers himself to us, inferring that if we come to him, we will never go hungry. Jeremiah 15:16 says much the same thing: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” What bread have you been eating lately? How’s your spiritual appetite? Have you been skipping meals? Or are you full? Perhaps it is time to sit at the feet of the Master, and eat.

Beggar’s Bread

He’s the bread of life we should eat every day;
He’s the light who helps us to find our way,
And the Door to the Kingdom that has no end:
Our Shepherd, protector, our guide and friend…
He’s the resurrection who overcame strife;
He’s surely the way, the truth, the life,
The Living Vine from whom we grow!
The Rabbi you should get to know…
He’s the Carpenter who became a Lamb,
He’s the Son of God, the Great I AM,
The One who came back from the dead
To offer us this Living Bread.
I believe every word He said.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

helper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

answer

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

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

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

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

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

Of All the Commands, This is Perhaps the Hardest One to Follow

Commands from leaders have come and gone throughout history, but this one really stands out: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13 NASB) Think about Leaders and commands.

commands death

The word of a reigning monarch is a life and death matter. Artaxerxes could sentence someone to death just for asking for an audience with him. There were the Caesars who passed themselves off as deities and in their power sentenced hundreds of thousands of prisoners and Christians to death; there was Adolph Hitler, who orchestrated the Holocaust, and Stalin, who commanded that dissidents be “purged” from society. There have been despotic leaders throughout history whose commands led their followers to commit acts of war, atrocities, and mayhem. There have been countless commands from Kings and tyrants which only spread fear and dread among their followers.

If you were given absolute power over the entire nation, and could do whatever you wanted to without fear of penalty or reprisal, what sort of commands would you issue? (And before you answer that, remember that Winston Churchill said, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) You might start out as a benevolent dictator, but be careful: Leaders tend to gravitate towards governance that is self-interested, or that seems to be intended for good but which actually benefits mainly themselves. (Just look at Congressional perks and programs!)

Even in the name of religion, there are those who misuse power for evil purposes. There have been cult leaders like Bob Jones and David Koresh who gave commands which led followers to their doom. There have been religious leaders who asked for money, or other men’s wives, or who commanded their followers to commit suicide; there are religious leaders today who command their followers to strap on a bomb and commit both murder AND suicide. Commands given by such men are corrupt at best, lunacy at worst…

Of course, leaders also pass laws AGAINST all manner of crime. Our legal system penalizes people for doing wrong So, when you read what Jesus commands, it kinda sets you back on your heels for a minute. This commandment from Jesus is remarkable not only in his time and culture, but in all times and in all cultures. As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I guess he could command us to do anything, and we’d ultimately have to submit. But get this: He commands us to love one another. “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” You heard him. Love one another today. And I guess pretty much every day! And by the way — if you are reading this, I love you, and I just prayed for you this morning. Boom!

Watch the ones who govern; just look out at all the lands
Where people rule with might and power, issuing commands;
The King of Kings came down to earth and walked across His land
Without the Secret Service or a military band...
He dressed in humble garb. There was no scepter in His hand.
His sermon was his life. He wasn't digital. He had no Brand,
But we still hear His great commandment, just the way He planned.
It's short and to the point, not very hard to understand:
"As I have loved you, Love each other. This is my command."
The world will fall. Will Fall. But Jesus and His words will stand.

 

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

Fresh Wind and Full Sail is the Antidote to Getting Stale

Jesus was talking to his disciples about the wind, using it to describe the mystery of the spiritual life: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NASB)

So, what exactly does Jesus mean by this? The wind is an intriguing analogy for one of the most difficult aspects of inner life. How do we know about the Spirit of God? Is He real to us, and as much a part of our perception of God as the other two members of the Trinity? Is a spiritual life some vague, random occurrence? Is Jesus emphasizing what we don’t know and can’t see? Is he saying, like Mohammed Ali, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; you can’t hit what you can’t see!” Or something else? Here are a few observations related to wind:

1) A spiritual life does have a source beyond us, something that is not necessarily evident. We don’t have the resources on our own to produce it, and our inherent human nature dwells on natural, not spiritual things. Paul points this out in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

2) There is an element of mystery to it; since it is not something we produce and control, we don’t know for sure where it will take us. We took a balloon ride over Napa Valley, and I was surprised that the balloon pilot had so little control over direction. He could go up and down, but he had to navigate according to what the wind dictated. In terms of our spiritual wind, it has a definite direction, but we don’t always know what that is, and it doesn’t necessarily serve human logic.

3) We notice it by its absence. Ever wished for a breeze, when it was still and miserable? Have you ever been spiritually becalmed? Dead in the water? If you are lacking that spiritual push, maybe you long for a little fresh air.

wind and spirit

4) The wind, while we can’t see it, provides empirical evidence of its existence—we hear it and feel it. We know it from its effect, much like we know the Spirit from its fruit. What Spiritual evidence is displayed in your life? Can people see the empirical results of a Spiritual influence?

5) The wind is unimaginably powerful (think: tornado, hurricane). Yet we usually feel it blowing gently, or see it filling the sails of a graceful vessel, providing energy and speed. The Spirit is the same: while It is overwhelmingly powerful, He can also move gently through our inner life, providing a source of power and direction. Much like a sailing vessel, if we yield to the wind and apply our resources to capture its power, it can send us through storms and across oceans! Do you have all your canvas out? Are you yielding to God’s Spirit?

If so, do you feel a freshening breeze? Better put up another jib, and make sure we are properly rigged; we’re about to set sail for adventure!

The wind expands the billowing sail,
Pushing a mighty ship with ease;
A wind can displace all that’s stale,
And cool your porch with a freshening breeze…
The wind is powerful, wild and free:
You sense the wind and you feel it blow,
Although it’s something you can’t see!
It goes wherever it wants to go…
The breeze can blow the goldenrod,
Invisible whether it’s light or dark;
And so it is with the Spirit of God,
Who is not seen, but leaves His mark.
For when you let the Spirit take command,
He’ll guide you with His gracious, unseen hand.

 

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

Esther Had An Impossible Choice: Sometimes You Have to be Willing to Risk it All

The Book of Esther would make a great Disney movie. It has a beautiful woman, a treacherous villain, a kindly uncle, and a happy ending. The story of Esther is an amazing study in courage in the face of deception, treachery, and the twists and turns of political intrigue in a pagan royal court. Esther was placed on the horns of a dilemma, and the fate of every one of her people depended on what she decided to risk.

[Mordecai said:] “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV)

Esther before Xerxes

In the Persian City of Susa, in the court of King Xerxes, a bitter and corrupt man named Haman concocted a plot to destroy the Jewish people. Haman had been promoted in Xerxes’ court and was a very important man. He became a murderous bigot,  angry at Mordecai (Esther’s uncle) because Mordecai would not bow to him in the street, and proclaimed that as a Jew he would bow to none but YHWH.

So Haman decided to get revenge not just on Mordecai but on all of his relatives, and basically duped the King into signing a death warrant for all of the Jews in Persia. (Have you ever wondered WHY it is the Jews who are so often targeted with genocide throughout history? Could it be the result of spiritual conflict between God’s people and the malevolent power of this world who would seek to destroy them? Just some food for thought…)

Esther

Xerxes signed Haman’s petition under false pretenses and without much thought, not realizing it applied to his newest wife, Esther. Because of her great beauty, she had been chosen out of all the women in the kingdom to be queen of Persia. It was quite a process. After she was chosen in the nation-wide beauty pageant, she was prepared with oils and beauty treatments for TWELVE MONTHS. No one had asked about her religion or family background, and no one in the court knew that she herself was Jewish. Her Uncle Mordecai had advised her not to disclose this information, and so no one in the Royal court realized Haman’s evil plan applied to the beautiful new queen.

Esther could have stayed incognito and hoped that she would be safe; but she also was in a unique position to help. As a result of these events, a life-changing choice lay before Esther. She could go before the King and expose the plot, but there was a catch: in his court, King Xerxes (like most despotic monarchs) had the right to kill anyone in the court who approached him uninvited. I’m sure that helped him stay on schedule, but it presented a real problem to Esther. Even further, by going forward and identifying with the Jews, she was placing herself voluntarily under Haman’s nefarious edict. Either way, she literally had to risk her own life in order to try to save her people.

Esther risked it all

I’m sure she was tempted to stay silent and hope for the best (something all of us do from time to time). After all, she had some security as a royal wife, and no one really knew that she was a Jew. In Esther 4:14 her uncle Mordecai encouraged her to approach the king. His counsel was that if she stayed silent, God’s deliverance for his people would still occur; but that perhaps she had been put in a unique position with a singular opportunity to act.

Esther is a great story, and her decision created an amazingly dramatic moment. But stop for a moment and think about that story in terms of your own life. Have you been brought to wherever you are for a purpose? Is there something you can do that no one else can do? Haven’t all of us been brought to moments large and small, with opportunities to risk our own comfort or our pride in return for greater gains? Aren’t all of us asked to die to self so that God’s greater good is realized? There’s a moment of choice in front of you, maybe even today… you can choose to remain silent and hope for the best, or proclaim your loyalty and allegiance to God. Who knows–perhaps it is YOU who have come to the kingdom for such a time as this! Step. up.

Esther’s Courage

Xerxes ruled with random lust; his court approached with fear.
His whimsy might be cruel or just, and Haman held his ear.
Haman’s hateful, murderous heart was filled with selfish pride,
Which turned against the man who worshipped Yahweh: Mordecai.
Haman lied to Xerxes, and his twisted, evil ruse
Convinced the King to grant the execution of the Jews.
Mordecai told Esther, then, of Haman’s vile plan,
Since her position in the court might thwart this evil man.
But if she came to the Royal court from the harem, where they kept her,
He might decline to see her with a gesture of his scepter,
And this declining gesture would mean death for good Queen Esther!
How could they escape this bind? How to change the Monarch’s mind?
Approaching him, she just might find that her request would be
declined…
Uncertain now, she wavered as she tried to count the cost.
Mordecai said, “Esther, if you don’t go, you’ll be lost–
God will save us either way, despite the turns and twists:
Who knows if you were put where you are for such a time as this?”
So Esther left the Harem and approached the Royal Hall,
Willing to save her people by being willing to risk it all.

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

You Want the TRUTH? Well Maybe You Can’t Handle THIS:

“Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, ‘If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32 ASV)

In a world where tons and tons of slanted opinions are tossed at us (read: Facebook, Twitter, CNN vs Fox, TV commercials, politics), the truth is becoming a rare and precious commodity. Every day you are presented with tons of information; how much of it is factual and how much of it is questionable? How do you know what is authentic and true versus what is twisted and spun? I still remember being encouraged several years ago because Congress declared that they were giving us a tax cut. Naturally I assumed that my taxes would therefore be lower. When my tax bill came, I found I was paying MORE in taxes! I actually called a congressman’s office to ask what happened to the tax cut. I wanted the TRUTH!

truth

Their answer was classic congressional double-talk: they told me that even though my total tax bill was higher, I was paying “less” in taxes because they had reduced the amount my taxes were scheduled to go up!

The art of prevarication is more sophisticated and subtle today than it has ever been in history. Over a century and a half ago, Mark Twain said “A lie will make it halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its boots on.” And that was before we even had the internet. What is spin and what is factual? As Bill Clinton once said, “That depends on what your definition of the word “is”, is… In our politics and in our culture, deception has been raised to an art form, and it is far more common and pervasive today than it was when Mr. Twain made his observation.

How do we know what is true and what is not? I have heard it said that when the Treasury Department trains agents how to detect counterfeit bills, they don’t waste time studying every possible variation. They invest time in knowing the original backwards and forwards. They are so attuned to the true original that they develop sort of an inner “truth meter” that detects flaws and irregularities in the counterfeit script. This sounds a little simplistic, to be honest, but the principle makes sense. By being intimately familiar with the real thing, they can then detect the phony variations of it.

Most people remember Jesus said “the truth shall make you free.” What they forget is that he prefaced that remark not by saying, “read lots of men’s opinions”, or “watch the nightly news”, and certainly not, “get on Social Media”… He said to abide in his word. Give that a try. Know who Jesus really is. Bask in his words. Be intimately familiar with the truth. Then when you hear a variation of it your Truth Meter will go off like crazy!

The truth, I’ve said, and I’ll say it again
Is harder find than “A Few Good Men”,
When our culture tries to dismantle it,
And Jack Nicholson says, “You can’t handle it!”
It gets to be so strenuous, detecting the disingenuous
When things reported by the press
are not the truth, but something less.
Of all the things that come at you,
how can you tell which ones are true?
Things can be fake, if digital, so study the original:
Whether mature or just a youth, get to know the solid truth–
Know Jesus. Get to know His word, and out of everything you’ve heard,
Of everything that you can see, know this: The truth will set you free.

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

Knowledge Puffs Up, So Here’s What You Really Ought to Know:

“And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2 KJV) A long time ago I chose this as my life verse, thinking that having an arbitrarily closed mind is not really a Christian attribute, that knowledge in itself has limited value, and that life should be a constant opportunity to learn.

Socrates may have contributed to Paul’s logic when he taught that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” It is sometimes challenging to try to stay intellectually open as a Christian when there are certain bedrock truths that are non-negotiable, and the idea of being dogmatic is probably seen as a negative by most folks in our culture. But being dogmatic is not necessarily a bad thing. Without bedrock, there is nothing to build upon. Perhaps it is the WAY some people are dogmatic that can be objectionable.

knowledge puffs

Paul was right when he said that “knowledge puffs one up” and contributes to pride and self-aggrandizement. It is only by allowing for our own possible ignorance that we access the opportunity for wisdom. You can’t put more treasure into a buried chest; a full Xmas stocking holds no more gifts; a sprung trap captures no more game; you can’t put ten pounds of… Well, you get the idea.

And really, if you look a little deeper, the point of our spiritual lives is not knowledge, but love. The verse right after this one says, “But if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” Paul knew that it is not knowledge but LOVE that transforms us. What fun would a friendship or a marriage be if we limited our relationship to only rational thought and knowledge, without any emotional connection? And yet we often treat God that way. It is not knowledge that completes us, but love. Paul reminded us about that in 1 Corinthians 13:13, when he said, “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

As humans our very nature is not based on knowledge, but on loving relationships that actualize us and enable us to be who we were created to be. I don’t follow the rules just because I know them, but I follow them because I care about breaking them. Timothy Keller connects the dots like this: “The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship. You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved by it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you.”

knowledge worship

How much have you been moved by God lately? You may be reading your Bible, and you may be increasing your knowledge, but when is that last time you were so moved by God that you fell in love with Him all over again? If you are in love with God, your worship will transform you and people will notice. And isn’t it a much cooler thing for someone to say, “Wow, that person really loves God!” rather than, “Wow, that person really thinks he’s smart!” Love God. Be known for it.

Go to College, get more knowledge; it will help you win debates.
Just beware and be aware that ego sometimes self-inflates.
Find your mind some worldly wisdom, it will make you self-assured;
But realize you’ll be surprised at some things wisdom does not cure.
You can’t earn and you can’t learn this truth no matter where you go:
Just Love God. That’s all you need to live, and all you need to know.

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