New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Heartbreak or Hope?

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war. The Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. One of the great differences between the God of the Bible and other gods is compassion. Only this God became a man, shared our sorrows, and experienced our grief and pain. He knows where you are because He has been there. He understands loneliness, heartache, being misunderstood, and even the pain of death.

A Sliver of Hope May Be Enough

While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, Lamentations promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can be the only thing worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, move to the light.” In the darkest of pits, we have the opportunity to discover the comfort in God’s inextinguishable light.

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

New Day, New Hope

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

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

Seek God. If You do, Jeremiah says He has Promises for YOU

When my Grandchildren come over we love to play “hide and seek”. There is something delightful about having someone looking for you, isn’t there? There’s a sense of anticipation during the search, and there are screams of laughter when someone gets found. We may think that seeking someone is just a childish game, but there is really way more to it than that.

If you haven’t noticed yet, in our devotional series since Easter we have been reading through every book in the Bible. Here on Day 25 we find ourselves in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV).

He Wept for a Reason

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and he preached in a time of upheaval and conflict. He didn’t sugar-coat the word of God, and he didn’t just tell people what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah was judged harshly by his audience. He was thrown into a muddy pit and ridiculed by all who passed by. He lived in difficult times, and predicted some terrible things ahead for Israel. In 1:14, he said, “calamity shall break forth on all the inhabitants of the land.” In 4:7, he predicted, “The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate.”

If you read all the way through Jeremiah you might understand why his congregations wanted to throw him in a pit! His preaching was full of doom, gloom and disaster. But in the midst of his dire warnings about the coming judgment there is this comforting promise in 29:11, which speaks of hope and restoration. I have seen this verse quoted many times, and in fact it is displayed on the wall above the door to our garage, so we see it every time we go out.

seek

A Light in the Darkest Night

It is one of my favorites because it reveals the nurturing side of the Lord’s character, the one that focuses on love and redemption. God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. Just don’t forget to add verses 12 and 13. “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (The Italics for emphasis are mine).

Everybody claims verse 11; not everybody bases their answer on the rest of the equation. God’s promise is extended to those who call on Him and pray to Him. We are promised we will find God if we seek him with our WHOLE heart. This thought is echoed in Hebrews 11:6, which says that God is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Not feeling as close to God as you’d like? Seek Him. Call upon His name. Pray earnestly to the Lord. Don’t be half-hearted in your search. And what, pray tell, does he say will happen if you seek Him with your whole heart? You will find Him: BOOM!

Jeremiah 29:11 And More

Ever feel that’s God’s not real, or He is far away?
Does it seem your words don’t matter, sometimes, when you pray?
God says, “I have plans for you, and I will help you cope;
If you seek me, you will find that I’m the God of hope!
If you want to find me, here’s the way to make a start:
Come to me in faith, and look for me with all your heart!
You’ll discover all my love, for I have plans for you:
Plans to give you hope today, and for your future, 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
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

If God is Not Who You Expected, Change Your Expectations

Expectations play a large role in our contentment and happiness. Have you ever met someone who did not turn out to be who you expected, and you were disappointed? Have you met someone who surprised you by exceeding your expectations? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it?

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. His own siblings thought he might be crazy. The disciples saw him as a way up and out. They knew he was powerful but they weren’t really sure where that power was headed. The Pharisees saw him as an outsider, and they wanted to get rid of him. The Roman leaders didn’t know what to make of him.

The Heart of Expectations

Expectations may color our thinking, but they really don’t change the reality behind them. Things may not be what you expect, but they are definitely what they are. What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? And what if the wages of sin really are death? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).

expectations

A Matter of Perspective?

I’ve wondered many times why my Jewish friends don’t see Jesus the same way I do. He was Jewish, and he came as Messiah, yet he was not who they expected. In a way, I totally understand, because we are all immersed in our own reality, and sometimes it’s impossible to see around our own perspective. At the time, under Roman occupation, the Jewish Leaders looked for revolutionary deliverance, and were hoping for political independence and freedom.

Yet Jesus was not who they expected: he never got political, and didn’t seem to give a fig about overthrowing Rome.(Kind of ironic when you consider that Christianity played such a big role in ending the domination of the Roman empire…)

I’m sure the Jewish zealots who followed him were disappointed that he came as a suffering servant rather than as an earthly king. Apparently Jesus, who came to set up a spiritual kingdom through his suffering, did not meet their Messianic expectations, and they rejected the notion that he could be the One.

Missed it by That Much

I once heard Bill Dial preach a really good sermon speculating that perhaps Judas betrayed Christ only to force his hand and start the revolution he thought was ultimately coming… He expected Jesus to rise up in power, not to be tried like a criminal. When that happened, Judas was devastated by the way things turned out because he expected a King instead of the cross. He missed Jesus’ true purpose as expressed here in Isaiah, and ended up hanging himself in grief and remorse.

Question: do we ever miss who God really is because we are hoping for something different? Is God’s response ever different than you expected? “Lord, bless me financially and I’ll believe you are real.” “Lord, heal me and I’ll know it’s you.” Are we ever sitting in a cave like Elijah, expecting to see God in the whirlwind? Can we be so wrapped up in our own presuppositions about who we’d LIKE Jesus to be that we miss who he IS? You know what they say about ASSUME… (When we do it, “it makes an ass out of u and me”).

When the Lord called himself, “I AM”, he was referring to the fact that He is in the moment. He is now. He is what we need. But perhaps He was also referring to the fact that He is who He is, not who we expect Him to be… We are not the shapers of God’s identity, but we are the creation to whom He reveals himself. I cannot define God, because He defines himself.

So don’t put God in a box—expect to find Him in unexpected ways and places… And while you’re at it, set aside your assumptions about church. Enter church as a suffering servant rather than as a sanctified saint. Stop being judgmental about the judgmental. Look at the man who was pierced for our transgressions. For my money, he was the Messiah who came to deliver not just Israel from occupation, but all of us from enemy territory. But don’t take my word for it; get to know Jesus. Then decide for yourself.

Rumination on Expectation

In a world of independent rights, here’s a disturbing thought:
God is always WHO HE IS, whether you like it or not.
What if He turns out to be much more than you expected?
When we reach the Judgment Day, will you be unprotected?
What if, in the Kingdom, we are standing there like fools,
Just wishing we had got to know the king of Kings who rules?
Perhaps you don’t believe in God; But what if He’s really there?
What’s his personality? And should you even care?
If you have never talked to God before, consider this:
It might be good to get to know him just the way He is.

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

Sex the way it Was Meant to Be: Fifty Shades of God

The Bible can be pretty Puritanical when it comes to sex. Does God hate sex? Or did He just have different intentions about its purpose?

“I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10, NIV)

Wait. The Bible Has Something Good to Say About Sex?

In the Bible there are many warnings about indiscriminate sex, and prohibitions against all kinds of sexual activity. In our world today, there are those who call such values outdated, Puritanical, repressive, and even hateful. So why is there a book smack dab in the middle of the Bible that rejoices in sex, that celebrates intimacy between a man and a woman, and that sets Biblical prudishness back 3,000 years? Have you read the Song of Solomon lately? It’s a racy dialog between two lovers, whose intimacy is anticipated, sung about by friends, and broadcast across the pages of the Bible for all the world to read wherever Bibles are sold.

sex

From the way these lovers rejoice in blessed carnality, the way they adore each other’s bodies and feast among each other’s lilies, one might actually get the idea that the Creator created SEX! And that it can be guilt free, pleasurable, and downright HOT. There seems to be only one catch: it was designed to function best in a relationship between a husband and wife.

sex

Lots of Choices

People have been having other kinds of sex (and seemingly getting away with it) ever since man left the garden to live in a fallen world. If you look around today’s world, we are encouraged to have more kinds of sex than ever before. A partial list includes premarital, extramarital, same gender, swinging, wild, experimental, prostituted, BDSM, who-knows-what online, and all kinds of casual, temporary sexual activity.

All of these, we are told, provide pleasure and possible fulfillment. I’m sure that to some degree they do. And yet, somehow, there is a lot of hit and miss in those promises. Apart from temporary, transient pleasure, those activities can also result in low self-esteem, “the walk of shame”, humiliation, VD, or the abortion clinic, where the pleasure seems far away and the residue of lust seems lonely and incomplete. Every one of the hook-ups on Friends had results they never covered in the script.

Not the Whole Story?

Folks who have engaged in those pursuits often end up feeling used, broken-hearted, lonely, bitter, and empty. Guys try to make a clean getaway while girls wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” What if we asked the world to say, “Me too” if they’ve experienced that? We see couples on TV hooking up on almost every show we watch, and we hear about the promised thrills a lot—but not so much about the failed relationships, broken hearts, and the emptiness of the morning after…

Great sex, according to the Bible, is hottest when two lovers belong to each other. It has intimacy based on the fact that it represents the union between us and our creator; it has spiritual depth because it represents not only carnality and passion but caring and compassion.

The Song of Solomon says that God wants lovers to have great sex—just not cheap, selfish, abusive, or temporary sex. You’d think the creator might know some secrets about the creation. I bet if you asked Him about kissing, He’d tell. He’d probably even write a little something down about it, and it would have way more than 50 shades. Read the manual, and you’ll know a lot more about how to drive the car…

Fifty Shades of God

Doesn't God hate sex? The Bible tells us not to do it,
Doesn't God prohibit sex and all that there is to it?
I've heard, when sex is talked about, that God is just tyrannical,
And that the Bible's stance on it is somewhat Puritanical...
And yet the Song of Solomon presents two smitten lovers
Who obviously enjoy themselves while underneath the covers!
It celebrates their intimacy in waves of carnal pleasure,
And God says that their love should be expressed in fullest measure!

They feast among the lilies, and they frolic in the glades,
Enjoying Godly intimacy in more than Fifty Shades!
When sex is blessed by God, it seems that nothing is forbidden;
When love unites the lovers, God says nothing must be hidden!
There is some ancient wisdom on it: go and take a look;
Just check with your Creator. After all, He wrote the book.

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

Is there a Random Chance You’ll Read This? YOU Decide.

Time and Chance might seem to have no place in a world ruled by a Sovereign God. Both Bible Scholars and skeptics believe in an either-or universe in which God has pre-ordained all things, and where determinism restricts the choices men may make about existence. The tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is a difficult thing to sort out, but surely God has a plan designed to accomplish His will which would override random events.

So why did the wisest man who ever lived say this:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Determined or Not?

I have always been in awe of God’s majesty and omniscience, but I have often wondered about his sovereignty. What does God’s sovereignty mean to us in a practical sense, and do we really have any choice in this world? On one hand, I have heard it argued that there is nothing that happens outside of God’s plan, and that there is a sort of determinism about life. Since God has foreknowledge, and knows everything in advance, then we really have no options and we are basically puppets dangling at the end of God’s strings.

On the other hand, there are many things in scripture that suggest man was given will and the ability to make choices for a reason; there is cause and effect, there are consequences to actions—but it’s not always the outcome we think is logical or fair.

chance

I have always believed that God’s sovereignty is somehow big enough to allow for human choices without limiting His authority, or interfering with the outcome He desires. God’s perfect will allowed for Abraham to sleep with Hagar, and still somehow used the players in their faithless disobedience to fulfill His ultimate plan.

Allowance

God allowed Jacob to lie and steal the blessing from Esau, yet it all worked to fulfill the covenant. He permitted a harlot to betray her own people to save the spies in Jericho and become one of David’s ancestors. In each of these cases, people made their own decisions, committed sins, or followed seemingly unpredictable paths of choice and chance.

The universe is not simply an “either-or” situation between God’s will and man’s will. The Bible views them as a “both-and” scenario, where God is utterly sovereign and man takes his chances and makes his choices. There are many twists and turns throughout Scripture that seem disconnected from God’s will (or totally random, based on earthly factors), but they did not deter His will or prevent the outcome He had ordained. And then this verse from Ecclesiastes: “time and chance happen to them all.”

A Very Big Umbrella

I believe that God allows for time and chance in a fallen world. If that is true, then He does not program us like automatons or dictate every action. Things are not always logical, and outcomes are not all predetermined. We act freely. We take our chances. Every eventuality exists under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty, and His foreknowledge does not limit our choices or dictate our decisions. Romans 8:28 says that God “works all thing together for good” to those who are His. I believe He is big enough to do that.

Sometimes the underdog wins. God allows for that. Sometimes humans exercise their will in business or athletics. God allows for that. And sometimes, in a fallen world, random things occur and accidents happen. Sometimes people pay for making stupid choices, or even pay for someone else’s stupid choices! Life is affected by time and chance. Ultimately, however, God is in control and we can have faith in a risen Lord in the middle of a fallen world. Are there things in life that seem unfair or impossible? Sometimes. Do those things ever circumvent God’s will? Never.

Chance or Choice?

If everything is prearranged, and history’s die is cast,
Then every action is ordained from the first one to the last.
The Lord is sovereign (heaven knows), and has a master plan–
So what remains within the province of the mortal man?
The Lord knows every man’s demise, and every sparrow’s fall,
But Solomon said Time and Chance still happen to us all.
So, is God in control, or do we have the right to choose?
If you gamble, bet on God. There’s no way you can lose…

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

The Heart of the Matter is that Your. Heart. Matters.

What goes into your heart matters. What comes out of it matters, too. For people who didn’t have EKG’s, cardiologists, or heart hospitals, the ancient Hebrew people were pretty wise about matters of the heart. Solomon in particular seemed to have a deep understanding of the way the heart functions, and his Book of Proverbs is full of references to it. With all of our technology, do you think we are any smarter about these matters than they were 3,000 years ago?

True Cardiology

Take a look at a few of these Proverbs and tell me what you think:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV) “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, KJV) To the Hebrews, the heart was the center of a man’s being, the place where instinct, reason, emotion and will came together as the core of body, soul, and spirit. It was where he made decisions and created core values.

Heart matters mattered to Solomon: Proverbs acknowledges it as the gateway for wisdom (2:10), and the place where understanding and God’s instruction could be stored and used (3:1, 6:21). Solomon saw the heart as central to a man’s commitment (3:5) and motivation (4:4). A teachable heart that is turned towards God’s wisdom brings both practical and spiritual rewards; a heart turned astray has other outcomes. A foolish heart will spurn good advice (5:12), act deceitfully (6:14), devise wicked schemes (6:18), be drawn into lust (6:25), and be willfully perverse (11:20) or unreasonably proud (16:5).

matters

First Out?

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He also said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him.” (Mark 7:20, AMP) So, what comes out of your heart? One of the indicators is your vocabulary. (“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Luke 6:45) What are the first words out of your mouth when you are angry? Do your words heal or hurt? Do they help or hinder?

What do you think the things that come out of your mouth say about your heart? If you did a quick internal summary, how would you evaluate your heart? Is it well-tended, or is it a bit of a hot mess? Does it cuss or discuss? Is it a gateway for wisdom, or a repository for waste? Is it proud and self-centered, or is it open and teachable? If you take care of your heart, it will take care of you!

Jesus said that we are defiled not by what we do, but by what comes out of our hearts… Take an honest inventory of what has flowed into and out of your heart lately. Then remember what Solomon said. Look after your heart: everything you do flows from it.

The Heart of the Matter

You cannot see it, but it’s there, providing with every beat
The fuel to think, the means to care, the power to compete.
It shows resolve, or skips a beat, or sometimes feels a thrill–
While it contains the seat of instinct, intellect and will.
It is a place where body, soul, and spirit all reside;
It is a place where men can shine, or where they try to hide.

Solomon said it was a place where passion could be fired,
And that to keep it healthy, there was diligence required.
A foolish heart will do some things that just aren’t very nice;
It won’t subscribe to wisdom, and accept its good advice.
So guard your heart, since it is where a person’s measure is;
And watch what you put into it: It’s where your treasure is.

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

Goliath Will Attack; When He Does, Here’s Where to Turn

Goliath was one of a race of Giants who afflicted Israel. For years the Philistines had embarrassed Israel on the battlefield, and Goliath was certainly cut from that type of mold. Day after day he would patrol the front lines, taunting the Hebrew soldiers to come out and fight him. From out of nowhere, and without armor or military prowess, the young shepherd David killed Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and changed Israel’s history.

What giants are you afflicted with? They can be anything bigger than you are, and they can even be of your own devising… David found later that he was tested not by bigger giants on the battlefield, but by a level of selfishness and sin that almost destroyed him.

Everybody’s Giants

After failing greatly, and after being broken and utterly humbled, he prayed:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps 51:1-2). If you ever want to pray scripture, this is a pretty good verse to pick. For me, this plea from David is at the heart of the Psalms, and it is also at the heart of our entire world.

goliath

David triumphed over Goliath, but Goliath wasn’t the giant who ultimately brought David down. Like many of us, David’s greatest giants attacked him from within. His prayer in this verse goes to the heart of how David had to deal with the other giants in his life.

David wasn’t a great example because he was righteous or close to perfect. He was great because he understood his need to be forgiven. David couldn’t function as king without God’s grace. He couldn’t function as a man without forgiveness. God–the Righteous Judge–is also the only source of forgiveness in our world. David knew that mercy comes from unfailing love, and that love only comes from God.

The Need for Mercy

God’s forgiveness manifests itself in grace, a transaction where someone gets forgiven, even when they don’t deserve it. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves…” It is grace that facilitates mercy, and it is mercy that we need. Think for a moment about how important forgiveness has been in your life, about how many times what seemed lost has been restored, and how many relationships, seemingly broken, were repaired by forgiveness.

What if there were NO grace? How would life be if we just removed all grace from the world? What if nobody forgave anybody? How would you then feel about those who had wronged you or slighted you? Take away grace and how would you treat them? What giants would be unleashed in every human endeavor? How would you feel about yourself, if all of your transgressions remained on your conscience like an open wound? Who would you be?

The human world would literally tear itself apart without the grace and mercy that are required to interact every day. Of all the animals, man alone needs and exercises forgiveness, in both the very personal way of dealing with our own iniquity, and in the public way we need to forgive others and need to be forgiven by them. David knew all about that, and the way he threw himself humbly on God’s mercy is more of an example to us than how he handled Goliath. We all have giants to slay. We all need God to slay them.

David Found Grace

David fought Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts;
He did not fear the bluster in the giant’s prideful boasts.
He fought Goliath as he fought the lion and the bear,
With faith that God would shield him as an answer to his prayer.
Of all the battles that he fought, the hardest one to face
Was when he sinned, and had to call upon the Lord for grace.
His battles weren’t the worst of all the danger he was in:
The greatest danger David faced attacked him from within.
He begged the Lord for mercy, and the Lord forgave his sin.

But what if grace did not exist, and mercy never came?
Do you believe our broken world would ever be the same?
If grace had never happened, could you ever heal your heart?
What bitterness and jealousy would tear our world apart?
How much would ugliness prevail? What knives would evil twist
To cause malignant hate to spread– if grace did not exist?
Remember David’s anguished, heartfelt plea to God above:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, and give me your unfailing love.”
Remember this, regardless of the giants you must face;
What makes this lifetime altogether bearable is Grace.

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

Blessing Means Good Things Happen. What Do Bad Things Mean?

It has to be a blessing when good things happen to us, right? What do you call it when bad things happen to us?
[Job said] “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:21-22, NIV). “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10, NIV).

A Book Full of Hard Truths

The story of Job is full of things that are difficult to understand, much like life sometimes… Job was an upright, blameless man who loved God and shunned evil. Satan asked for and received permission to test Job’s love for God. He claimed that Job only loved God because he was protected from misfortune. God allowed the devil to test Job using tragedy and misfortune. Satan then destroyed all that Job had, claiming not just his worldly goods but the lives of his children as well.

Job’s three “friends” came around to counsel him, and they relied upon the conventional wisdom that said misfortune only happened to those who sinned. And really, don’t most of us think that we are somehow to blame for random bad things that happen to us? That there is some sort of vigilante justice loose in the universe, “karma” that brings evil upon those who commit evil?

With Friends Like These…

When something bad happens, don’t we cry out, “What have I done to deserve this?!” Job stubbornly refused to confess his sin (he actually was upright and blameless in this mess), and refused to blame God. Even his wife told him to “curse God, and die!” Yet he held on to his faith.

The story of Job is written primarily to countermand the idea that bad things happen only to those who do bad things. The assumption that anyone who has suffered misfortune or impairment must have done something to deserve it. Now, yes, there is cause and effect, and yes, sometimes actions have consequences, but Job teaches that not every tragedy happens because we deserve it.

The X Factor

Evil can happen because we live in a fallen world where there is no guarantee of safety. Satan roams this world as a spiritual terrorist, randomly causing bad things to happen in the hope that he will disturb any notion of truth, faith or love that may exist. If the Great Deceiver can use tragedy (or even cause and effect) to get someone to blame God or deny Him, then the devil wins.

Destruction is Satan’s handiwork, and cynicism is Satan’s playground. Those things, along with self-righteousness and being judgmental, are the tools he uses to disrupt lives and destroy testimonies. But Job refused to be cynical, and he continued to honor the Lord. He did have to realize that he was not prosperous because of his own righteousness, and that we can’t manipulate blessing by being righteous. Even in his own earthly righteousness, Job had room to grow in his understanding about the Lord, and room to be honest with his God.

blessing

Job discovered that blessing was not in his self-righteousness, and not in his stuff. Blessing ONLY comes from a sovereign God, and our growth comes from acknowledging Who. He. Is. In 42:2 Job said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” There are perhaps in this universe things “too wonderful for us to know” at this point. We will certainly know them someday, but perhaps for now, simply knowing God IS the blessing. Once we figure that out, well then stuff is just stuff.

Curse? Or Blessing?

If you’re rich, you’re blessed up. They say it, but that’s messed up!
You have to stay confessed up: just having yourself a full cup
Won’t stop you being stressed up.
People all want things from God, they just can’t get enough;
But what about when everything goes bad, and things are tough?
Stop and realize this: our blessings don’t depend on stuff.
People say “I’m blessed” if fame and fortune come to them,
But blessings don’t just come from God. The blessing, friend, is HIM.
Everything is His, and every part of every day:
God blesses us so we can give His blessings all away.
Our blessings are not stuff, but HIM. That’s all I have to say.

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

Esther: The Beautiful Young Queen Who Risked It All

Do you like drama, intrigue, and plot twists? Then this story is for you! Esther was chosen to be Xerxes’ latest queen by winning a beauty contest. However, the Book of Esther reveals she was more than just another pretty face…

A Plot Worthy of a Mini Series

Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman, had been chosen by Xerxes to be Queen of Persia. The fact that she was Jewish was not known publicly. A pompous court official named Haman resented Esther’s uncle Mordecai because he refused to bow to him, so Haman obtained an order from Xerxes to have all of Mordecai’s people killed (not knowing that this death warrant would include the beautiful young Queen…).

After Esther was told about Haman’s evil scheme to kill all of the Jews, she had two options: One, she could hole up and stay incognito in the palace and take her chances that she might be spared because of her beauty and connections. Or two, she could help Mordecai try to thwart Haman’s plan by going before Xerxes and bringing it to his attention.

A Bad Day to Have a Bad Day

The real problem with that was if Xerxes (being an all-powerful potentate) was in a bad mood, he could have ANYONE who approached him unbidden killed just for making an appearance. So, for Esther this was not an easy choice. She could ignore the plot, and perhaps survive if she was not identified as a Jew; or she could approach Xerxes uninvited and die at his whim.

Esther


Her uncle Mordecai laid this out before her in no uncertain terms: she could go before the King, but it could indeed cost her life. After giving the matter some consideration, she made her choice: “Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:15-16, NKJV).

Esther risked it all

Choosing Faith

By choosing to risk forfeiting her own life in going before Xerxes without permission, Esther became one of the great heroes of the Hebrew people, stepping out in faith to identify with them (and with God), rather than depending on mere worldly values to offer her protection. The young and beautiful queen voluntarily assumed the worst (a death sentence), so that by approaching the despotic king, she had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

We often do the opposite. We ignore our inevitable death sentence and try to hold on to something temporary rather than to embrace something eternal. Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jesus chose to die for every one of us; perhaps we will realize great reward if we each take the risk and choose to die for Him. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Good advice for Esther. Good advice for us.

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 murderous, hateful heart was full of selfish pride,
Which turned against the man who worshipped Yahweh: Mordecai.
Haman lied to Xerxes, and his evil, twisted 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 Xerxes’ 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 to 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
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Why did Nehemiah see Himself as a Sojourner? Are YOU one?

A sojourn is a temporary stay. Not like a summer camp summer stay, but more like a temporary relocation of a permanent residence. I’m sure the Israelites who were carried off into captivity to Persia did not see it as their permanent home, but in all likelihood there were some who assimilated into Persian culture. They compromised with the Persian lifestyle and adopted Persian values. Bought the rugs, drank the bitter coffee…

Nehemiah was captive who rose to an important position in the Persian court, able to rub shoulders with kings and princes. But he still saw himself as a Sojourner who was far from home. He felt he was living behind enemy lines. He heard that Jerusalem was in ruins, and it disturbed him so much that he actually cried over the state of affairs back home. So here’s a couple of questions for you:

Where do you feel most at home? What Makes YOU Weep?

Nehemiah thought about these things, and he prayed about them as well. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.

I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:4-7, NIV)

Home, Where My Heart Lies…

Nehemiah was one of the Hebrew leaders who had been deported to Persia, far away from home and family. Even though he had gained an important position in the Persian court, he saw himself only as a sojourner in a foreign land… He thought of his homeland, longed to go there. He worried about conditions there and was filled with compassion.

sojourner

This passage describes Nehemiah’s response when he heard firsthand from his brother about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem. Apparently he was a passionate man, and the news of how citizens of Jerusalem lived in squalor and beset by enemies was very distressing to him.

Nehemiah was a great leader, and not just because he was passionate or organized or skillful. He was a great leader because his first response to hearing about the need in Jerusalem was to approach God with a humble and contrite heart, and to take ownership and responsibility for the situation. He apparently knew about God’s character and God’s promises, and he went before the Lord 1) praising Him for who He is, and 2) confessing his own sins, as well as those committed by his family and his people.

A Different Perspective

Even though Nehemiah had risen to an important role in Artaxerxes’ court (he was cupbearer to the king), he stayed humble, and didn’t get wrapped up in the material comfort of his position. Just imagine what it would be like to trade God’s blessing for material things. Imagine what it’s like to be distracted so much by a comfortable life among your enemies that you grew calloused to what blessings really are! (Hmmm does that sound familiar to us American Christians?)

Nehemiah did not focus on the fact that he was an important man in his temporary local surroundings. He saw himself as a sojourner in a strange land. He remembered the truly important things: who his God was, and who Nehemiah really was. Probably a good idea for the rest of us temporary sojourners who sometimes forget what’s really important, and choose to live comfortably in our Enemy’s kingdom.

Living Behind Enemy Lines

Nehemiah heard that things back home were not well kept;
When he heard that Jerusalem was broken down, he wept.
Although he was a sojourner, he served the Persian king,
And had the wealth and privilege that such appointments bring.
But Nehemiah could not eat or sleep; his thoughts would roam
To how oppressed and how distressed his people were at home.

So think of this: you live in Satan’s kingdom here on earth,
And you’re surrounded by the things that give his kingdom worth;
Will you remain here comfortably, imbedded soft and deep,
Or will you long for your true home, and look around, and weep?
Be careful what you value, and be careful where you stay,
For just like Nehemiah, you’ll be going home one day…

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

Joy Made People Cry. When has Your Joy Ever Made You Weep?

The Temple of Solomon was an amazing structure, built in about 950 BC by thousands of artisans who hand-crafted every stone. It was destroyed in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar II when Babylon overwhelmed Jerusalem. When Ezra returned in 538 BC, Israel performed the back-breaking work required to rebuild the temple. This project affected not only their religion, but their entire sense of community and JOY.

How joyful are you? In a world where everyone seeks happiness, its seems that sometimes pure joy is in short supply. Perhaps we can discover it in this passage:

Joy that Showed

“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.” (Ezra 4:11-13, NIV).

joy

When the Israelites were able to return to build the temple, it was a moving experience. They had gotten permission from Cyrus to leave Babylon, and then created a plan and traveled back together all the way to Jerusalem. The people who returned performed exhausting manual labor with a sense of urgency: they were rebuilding God’s house! They worked together to clear away debris, and to move huge stones into place for the foundation. When it was laid, the older workers wept aloud, while the younger ones gave a great shout of praise that carried their joy into the heavens.

Restoration

It was an exciting time for many whose lives had been torn apart, or who had lived their entire lives in exile, away from the homeland they dreamed of. They sang praises; they rejoiced with thanksgiving! As Ezra says, their emotion was so overwhelming that “no one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping” as people cried out, filling the air with emotional exclamation points. They were refreshed and excited, newly reminded of God’s goodness and love!

As you reflect on the emotion of this scene, ask yourself: what represents rebuilding God’s temple to you? What godly thing have you been missing in your life, which being restored would cause you to shout with joy? Is it a mountain top where you once rejoiced? Is it a place of service where you felt useful? A calling you have neglected to follow?

I bet almost all of us have some special place in our relationship with God where we long for restoration, and for the chance to feel His love and goodness anew. Consider the possibility of making a plan, of enlisting friends and family to travel with you, and of returning to the place where you, too, would shout for joy! Or weep for joy. Or, just go into your prayer closet today and seek the Lord in the privacy of your own heart. I think God will meet you there either way.

Choose Joy

Perhaps you, too have felt alone, with all your laughter stilled;
Perhaps you’ve been knocked down a peg, and needed to rebuild.
Go and seek the Lord. He can restore what has been taken,
And He’ll be your foundation whether all the world’s been shaken.
Stand before Him. Choose to sing to Him, and lift your voice!
Claim His promise to restore. Believe. Receive. Rejoice!

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

Humble Prayer is the First Step in Being Healed. Step Out!

The surest way to succeed, our culture tells us, is to be accomplished. Athletes “make history”, and business people keep score by how much money they’ve made. Leaders want power, gangbangers want respect, and everyone dreams of being able to do whatever they want to do. The Bible has a different take on being great: It says if you want to achieve real greatness, start by being humble. If you’ve never considered that, you might be surprised at how much difference that makes in the long run.

humble

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). This is a pretty well-known verse from 2 Chronicles, which came from a dream Solomon had right after he had made sacrifices and dedicated the temple. They were justifiably proud of what they had accomplished. But God appeared to Solomon and reminded him how important proper worship was, and what God required of his people.

A Different Standard

God’s word to Solomon was one of those “If—then” conditional statements that rely upon the fact that God’s character is consistent and unchanging. In this case, God is reminding Solomon (and us) that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. Since we are His children, that makes perfect sense. But what’s required of us?

First of all, we have to be God’s people, the ones who are called by his name. We need to be in a relationship with God, one that is exhibited enough externally so that others know what we are about. When people think of us, do they think of Him?

Second, we have to humble ourselves. In a world full of ego this is an attitude that we don’t see very often today. (The Special Olympics might be a place where humanity comes close to exhibiting this virtue, but the world is far more calibrated to celebrating money, power and looks than it is to celebrating the efforts of humble people.)

humble

So, Humble Yourself

We are surrounded by so much ego that we think it’s right to puff ourselves up and to treat the universe as if we are at its center. Because it is what we are surrounded with, it stands to reason that we might even approach the Lord that way, too. Are you proud of anything? Then you are NOT humble. But, in the long run we figure that if we’re a little bit sorry, and tell God He is Lord, then we’ve achieved humility.

Perhaps there is more to humility than that. Back in the day, people tore their clothes, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, they wept and fasted, and they lay prostrate on the ground before the Lord. Quick check: when is the last time you humbled yourself and prayed like that? (That’s what I thought. Me neither…) And let’s not forget that humility is not an external show, but an internal transformation. We humble ourselves from the inside out, not the other way around.

Third, we need to seek God’s face. I think this implies not only seeing eye-to-eye, but being transparent, open, and intimate with God. Face to face means seeing Him as He truly is, and realizing that He sees us as we really are, without masks or excuses or spin. While we present our outward appearance to the world, the Lord sees our hearts.

Finally, He tells us to turn from our wicked ways. If enough of us humble ourselves and do this, He promises to forgive our sin and heal our land. What are your wicked ways? Do you think our land needs healing? Great news! God has already given us the prescription: when you turn from THEM, turn to HIM.

A Truly Humble Prayer

If my people, called by my name, will hear what I have to say,
And keep My word which they have heard, and come to me and pray;
If they will humble themselves, confess the wickedness they are in,
Then I will hear, and heal their land, and I’ll forgive their sin.
Come to me without delay– repentance must not wait–
For only through humility can you be truly great.

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