Heavenly Thoughts, In A World Full of Low Places

Where is Your Heart Set?

Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, wouldn’t that just be heavenly!”? The Apostle Paul probably used that phrase from time to time, and since he had once been caught up into heaven in a vision, he knew what he was talking about. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things”. (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

What do heavenly things look like? What would life be like if we could set our hearts on heavenly things?

Soul Food versus Comfort Food

Stop and think: are there options heaven offers that you haven’t thought of yet? Is there something you would want that you don’t want now? Is there something you would cease to want that you DO want now? What if there was something far more valuable than money, way more satisfying than pleasure, and much more comforting than food? What if this fallen world provides the merest shadows of what our Father actually intends for us to have?

heavenly things

Take time, for instance. It is almost impossible for us, so wrapped in finite time, to imagine eternity. How much longer will it be? How will infinite time change our perspective, broaden our horizons, and expand our potential? The heavenly view of time will change everything, and we will perceive such a gap between our old earthly sense of time and our new heavenly one that we will consider the earthly view of time laughably outdated and inadequate.

Infinite Possibilities

If you can stretch your mind to make that comparison, then apply the same differential to everything else. Our concept of pleasure will totally change, replaced by its infinitely greater counterpart. The ability we have to experience comfort and joy and love will be multiplied exponentially, and we will find that our limited view of life itself will explode into an infinitely more fulfilling one, the one that God intended us to have.

Our understanding of intimacy and relationship will expand as well. Paul hints at this in 1 Corinthians 13:12, when he says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” God wants us to know Him as he knows us; and He wants to replace the incomplete and transient with the perfect and eternal.

Don’t Settle

In “The Weight of Glory”, C S Lewis says, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Paul tells us in this to set first our hearts, and then our minds on higher, greater, heavenly things. The good can be the worst enemy of the best. Don’t keep aiming too low. First, connect your passion to the living God. Sing! Dance. Rejoice in honest prayer and test the purity of repentance. Open your heart to eternal possibilities. Then, set your mind on things above. Instead of hungering for the things of this world, discover heavenly wisdom and truth that will change your trajectory. You may just find that you’ve been aiming too low.

Shootin’ Too Low

On top of Ol’ Smokey, all covered with snow,
When winter time comes, Friend, why, that’s where I’ll go.
There’s nothing that brings a man laughter and cheer
Than to go out and hunt in the cold time of year;
When the snow covers all with a blanket of white
And the brisk, bracing air makes a man feel just right;
There’s nothing I know of that so entertains me
As a hunt in the snow—why, my Friend, it sustains me!
There was no better thing, I don’t mind tellin’ you
Than to hunt for some game with my Old Hound Dog, Blue…

You see…Blue was much more than a dog, or a pet:
In all of my life, he’s the best friend I’ve met:
A companion, a soul-mate; much more than a friend,
And it just broke my heart when old Blue met his end.

We were huntin’ on top of Ol’ Smokey one day
When a turkey just happened to flap out our way;
Well, Blue pointed him up, and he stood there stock-still,
When the turkey flapped over the crest of the hill,
And I, in my haste to taste fresh, roasted game,
Pulled my shotgun right up to my shoulder, and aimed!

But, as I was gettin’ that turkey in sight,
I may have been dazzled by all of that white,
when I fired at the turkey, cause something went wrong,
And I saw that shot go where it didn’t belong—
An explosion of white from a snow-covered log,
Made it hard to see Smokey, or turkey, or dog!
And I waited to look, when the powder had cleared
When my eyes were exposed to a sight that I feared…

For the turkey flew down from the snow-covered hill,
But my good old dog Blue lay there, breathless and still.
Yes, there on the ground was the dog that I loved,
For it seems that my aim was just not high enough.
On top of Ol’ Smokey, all covered with snow,
I lost my dog Blue from a-shootin’ too low…

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

A Suffering Servant: The Man Who was Nailed Down to be Lifted Up

A Logical Expectation

In 7 BC, Jerusalem had been living under the oppression of an occupying army for many years. Most folks probably hoped for a glorious Messiah rather than a suffering servant. From today’s vantage point it may not be that obvious, but it stands to reason when first Century Hebrew people read the Scriptures, they looked for a mighty Messiah who would overthrow the hated Romans. They hoped for a deliverer to reestablish God’s kingdom.

Based on their circumstances, it absolutely makes sense that they were focused on a coming King who would restore their kingdom and return it to its former glory. However, there were several prophecies that pointed to a suffering servant, a type of Messiah completely different than who they expected…

A Different Prophecy About a Different Outcome

Here’s one of them: “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” (Isaiah 52:13-15, NIV)

Isaiah says “my [God’s] servant” will be raised and lifted up, but also disfigured and marred. In the process, he says, this servant will “sprinkle many nations” and wield influence over kings… Wait, a Chosen One who would be appalling and disfigured? How could this be?

Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah being a suffering servant probably didn’t make much sense to devout Jews in Jesus’ day. Chafing under Roman rule, they were undoubtedly looking for a Deliverer along the lines of King David. They anticipated a dynamic and attractive ruler with a godly heart and a warrior spirit.

Isaiah’s Curveball

The notion that the Coming One might be disfigured and appalling to many would have been unthinkable. And the idea that He might be lifted up in crucifixion rather than in earthly glorification would have been shocking and offensive. Yet Isaiah said the Messiah would be “marred beyond human likeness”. His prophecy foretold that the Messiah would be more like a suffering servant than a conquering King.

suffering servant

In Isaiah 53 he said: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 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.”

Connecting the Dots

Isaiah’s vivid language pointed directly to the cross, just as Jesus did in John 12:31 when he said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John clarified what Jesus meant in the next verse: “This he said, signifying what death he should die.” When Jesus spoke of being lifted up, he wasn’t talking about being a celebrity, he was talking about being nailed to a cross…

Matthew says, right after Jesus revealed his true purpose to his followers, that “From that time forth Jesus began to show to his disciples how he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” (Matthew 16:21, NKJV) Jesus did not scheme with his disciples about politics; he acted like their servant and told them about his suffering. They didn’t want to hear of it, and they certainly didn’t think of Isaiah 52.

He Already Knew

But Isaiah’s prophecy was well-known to Jesus, and it provided a foreshadowing of his mission and his purpose. Jesus remembered Isaiah’s words and wanted to make sure we all understood what he meant by being lifted up. That’s why he quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross, in order to call attention to its graphic description of the Messiah being lifted up in the agony of crucifixion. He wanted us to get it, to understand that He knew what his mission was and what his sacrifice would accomplish. He came to earth, not to be a slick-talking sovereign but to be a suffering servant.

According to Isaiah, it would touch “many nations”, sprinkling them with protective sacrifice for sin. The Messianic mission will ultimately silence both critics and kings. They will see and understand that, to Jesus, being exalted meant something different than it means to earthly monarchs. Jesus was not famous because he was good-looking, or celebrated because he was superior. He is to be exalted because he came as a suffering servant rather than as King, and he gave himself as a sacrifice when he didn’t have to–just so you can see what you were not told, and understand what you had not heard. Don’t override God’s revelation with your own assumptions and expectations. Look. Listen. See. Understand.

The Glorious Deliverer Nobody Expected

Messiah. Lord. Almighty King. Deliverer. Ya’ll, but here’s the thing,
He didn’t come for earthly gain, or to Jerusalem to reign;
His home was way out in the sticks; he didn’t enter politics.
Instead, he served, and took the cup. He said, “I will be lifted up”,
But not the way a Caesar would be; Jesus offered hope that could be
Freely offered from the cross. What others may have seen as loss,
He used, and came to earth and bring a different kind of earthly king.
Some men dreamt of victory in toppling mighty Rome;
Jesus came from glory just to bring his children home.

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

It’s What’s Inside That Counts: Keep Your Heart With Diligence

A Common Refrain

Hank Williams knew that it’s what’s inside that counts, because he said that when it comes to broken promises, “Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…” The Bible talks about it this way: Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ASV)

The Hebrew people had a highly developed view of the heart, and believed it to be central to intellect, emotion, and will. They recognized that we have a spiritual imperative inside of us which separates us from all other animals, and that the heart is not just a blood-pumping organ– it is the center of a person’s body and soul.

Samuel told Jesse that the Lord chose David to be king (instead of his older, seemingly more attractive brothers) using a different criteria than we use. Even though men could be swayed by outward appearance, the Lord could see David’s inner desires, thoughts and motives. He made his selection based on what was INSIDE David’s heart, not what was on the outside…

Outside/Inside

Jesus certainly viewed the heart as the place where man’s moral compass resided, and he warned that external actions were not as dangerous as internal motives: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:19-20, NIV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

inside heart

The reason that men don’t demonstrate greater nobility or higher values is that we are more naturally inclined to be selfish and deceitful than to be godly. If you don’t believe that, just drive in traffic or watch the local news… The selfish, carnal heart must be awakened by the Spirit of God to rise above its basest desires; and the undeveloped heart will only produce what it is equipped to produce.

Maintenance Matters

The fact that we need to keep our hearts diligently also implies that they may be unkempt. And the Bible says unattended hearts are proud, deceitful, vengeful. Human hearts are full of bitter schemes and vulgar language just waiting to be unleashed. Cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain might just be colorful vocabulary, but a potty mouth can also reflect that there’s a sewage backup problem further inside. Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

inside matters

How is your heart? Are you diligent in keeping it secure and strong? Is it, as the Bible characterizes well-tended hearts, humble, loving, full and glad? If you wonder, then do a quick inventory of what you say, and how you spend your time and money: “for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ASV)

Treasure

Keep your heart with diligence; it governs what you say,
And from it come the actions you engage in every day.
Our human inclinations tend to lead us far astray,
Surrendering to tempting things that often come our way.
Jeremiah said from common folks to lofty kings,
The heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things.
Jesus warned that we are not defiled by Satan’s darts,
But by the wickedness we carry in our selfish hearts.
As you take inventory of your heart, remember this:
Whatever most your heart desires is 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

A Fool Thinks he is Wise; a Wise Man Knows Himself to be a Fool

Go to the Source

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV) All true wisdom, just like all true love, comes only from God. It is part of His character, a reflection of who He is and what He is about. It may come indirectly or be claimed by someone else along the way, but it all comes from Him alone. Apparently it is readily available for the asking, even though people don’t display it much. The book of Proverbs says, “Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.” (1:20)

wisdom cries

Even Shakespeare pointed out that she is available to all who seek her, and yet so many lack her stabilizing presence. God is wisdom’s only source—and James says here that the Lord is willing to give it generously… So why aren’t all men wise?

All Truth is not Self-Evident

Well, first of all, you have to realize you don’t have it. That’s tougher than it sounds. A lot of people think they are wise but, well… perhaps they really aren’t. (Kinda like American Idol try-outs. A lot of people think they can sing, but, well, not so much!)

Second, you have to ask for it. And you have to ask God for HIS wisdom, rather than being egocentric and wrapped up in self-acquired knowledge. Asking for help implies assuming a subordinate position, and it’s amazing how many people are just too proud to do that. (And really, that’s what it almost always boils down to. We tell God, “Lord I want wisdom, but I want it on MY terms”. We want God’s plan handed to us the way WE want it; but isn’t that precluded by the fact that it’s HIS plan??)

Third, Proverbs says that fear (respect, awe) of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but that fools despise it (and Him). If God is real, you’d be a fool not to fear Him. After all, this is the God who created the universe, who upholds all things by the word of His power; this is the God who weighs the nations as dust in the scales, holds the keys to life and death.

There’s Fear and then there is FEAR

But this is also a God who requires faith, who gives evidence but not irrefutable proof, and who allows all men to choose how they will perceive Him.
1 Corinthians 8:2-3 says, “If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet that he ought to know; but if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” To see God properly and become wise requires that we assume the right perspective. We have to see God as He is, not as we’d like Him to be.

Perspective requires that we humbly acknowledge where true wisdom comes from and ask the Creator for what only He can give. Back in the heyday of boxing, Mohammed Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, you can’t hit what you can’t see.” I think he was describing his own speed and elusiveness, but he could have also been talking about wisdom: if you can’t see it, you can’t hit it.

A lot of people out there dodge and weave through life, proud of how smart they are or how much they have—even as they make foolish choices or head down destructive paths. They may be rich or famous, they may even be smart, but somehow wisdom has eluded them. So, next time you encounter a fool, you’ll know what their real problem is. And next time you act the fool instead of making wise choices, well—at least now you know who to ask, right?

A Call From the Streets

Wisdom wanders in the streets, and even calls aloud,
While millions pass her by because they’re just too smart or proud.
Wisdom, see, is not just facts that people learn in schools,
Or being bright, or having lots of intellectual tools;
(In fact, some who believe they’re wise are really still just fools!)
Some think wisdom is acquired, and work hard at the task,
But James says that it comes from God; we only have to ask!
The next time life requires some wise advice to help you live it,
The Book of James says ask the Lord for some: He’ll surely give it.

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

Why Faith? How Come God Doesn’t Offer Indisputable Proof?

Why Not PROOF?

Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks more about FAITH than about PROOF?? “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV)

Faith doesn’t require proof, validation, satisfaction, victory or blessing. It is in ITSELF these things, and offers complete comfort and peace to those who exercise it. But I have always thought Christianity would be a lot easier if there was “God-in-a-box”. I’m talking about empirical proof that you could carry around and just show people.

Indisputable Evidence

Think about how easy evangelism would be. You’re sharing the good news with someone, and they say, “I’m just not sure I believe all that stuff”. Well, you open up “God-in-a-box” and SHOW them, and they’d have to say, “Oh, I see now. You’ve got God, right there. I guess I have to believe.” Scientists could analyze it and find conclusively that yes, indeed, God exists. No more arguments about who God is, or what God is like. No more atheists. If we just had “God-in-a-box”, the world would be 100% converted in whatever time it took for everybody to see the proof.

proof

Kind of a silly thought, I know, but also a fascinating one. Why is it that we can’t just PROVE the existence and nature of God in an irrefutable way? How come the Lord of the universe set things up in a way that allows for so much interpretation and ambiguity? Put simply, I look at it like this: God requires faith so that we have a choice. God could have given us undeniable proof and created us as automatons who are programmed to follow His every whim, but He didn’t. He created a universe in which we have free will to the fullest extent possible, where we could even choose to perceive him or believe him—or not.

By definition, if you could PROVE the existence of God, there would be no need for faith, and no real possibility for us to love Him of our own accord. Only by allowing us to reject Him did he give us the power to accept Him. He grants us the ability to have faith so that we can truly experience love.

Is Testimony True?

Second, God allows faith so that we have a journey. As God has revealed himself and men have responded, there are thousands and thousands of stories about changed lives and new directions. Abram left Ur to go to the place God would show him; Moses led a nation out of slavery; Paul did a 180 on the road to Damascus; and more recently, Brian Welch, Albert Pujols, Eric Metaxas, and many others speak movingly about their faith in God and their new direction on the website I AM SECOND (iamsecond.com). The changes in these many lives are fueled by faith which provided a platform from which to embark on a new journey in life.

proof

Finally, God gives faith so that we can live out a dream. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith enables us to take evidence and convert it to hope. It empowers us to take hope and convert it to action. True faith ALWAYS results in action (see James Chapter 2). There is no such thing as passive faith. It’s like the old expression, “put your money where your mouth is.” If you really believe something you won’t just talk about it, you’ll invest in it with your time and resources.

A person of faith will think differently, act differently, and dream differently. It might be surprising, but I’ve never really been a big “pie in the sky when you die by-and-by” kind of guy. I have always thought that the greatest thing about eternal life is how it performs TODAY.

What’s There to Lose?

You may say, “This God stuff is silly. We die and that’s it.” You might be right. So then, even if I’m 100% wrong, and we both end up in the grave, what did I lose? I still gained comfort, wisdom, and a quality of life I never dreamed possible. But if the faith I place in God is justified, and I’m right, then, WOW! What did I gain? If you ever stop and think of what heaven could be like, it is mind–bending. And it would be a shame to miss an eternity filled with God’s glory just because you were waiting for more evidence.

Somewhere, sometime along the way, God has revealed Himself to you. He has given you glimpses of His creativity, his character, his Word, and his impact on others. But He will never PROVE himself to you. He is waiting for you to step out in faith, and Hebrews says He is waiting to reward you if you diligently seek Him. Believe it. Bet on it.

Your Choice, Your Privilege

God did not make robots who could not think on their own,
But men who had to find their way to Him by faith alone…
Sure, He could have forced mankind to find Him and accept Him;
He could have offered iron-clad proof so no one could reject Him.
Instead of proof, He gave us all the privilege to believe,
To come to him by Faith, based on the evidence we receive.
Many may ignore Him; there are times when no one sees Him;
Just don’t forget: without Faith, it’s impossible to please Him.

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

Leadership God’s Way: The Wrong Kind in the Wrong Place and Time

God’s Upside-down Paradigm

There are lots of books and blogs about leadership; apparently God hasn’t read any of them. Instead of dominating His way into men’s affairs, He chose to place Jesus into His Kingdom like this: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV) As you consider what Paul is saying about leadership, here are a couple of observations about these verses: First, Jesus left his position in the heavenly realm and became a man.

leadership

Take a moment and just try to imagine the gap between where he was and where we are. He came from the right hand of God the Father, a position of heavenly power and glory. He left all that to come to earth. Jesus did not arrive here as the reigning monarch, but he allowed himself to be placed into the tiny form of a helpless baby. He traded the omniscience of deity for the vulnerability of manhood. He left the security of his kingdom to go behind enemy lines, wagering everything in history on not his Father’s might, but His Father’s love…

So, What Were the Odds for a Crucified Itinerant Preacher?

He took no unfair advantage over the powers of this world, and yet he challenged them utterly with nothing but his Word and his life. He was very God of very God, and yet he demanded no riches, no opulence, no glory… Compare that with Roman Emperors, who used every advantage, leveraged every bit of power they could grasp, and even claimed to be gods themselves! Jesus, refusing the trappings of the world, came to a common family far away from palaces and politics.

As “Jesus Christ Superstar” once pointed out, he came to earth before the printing press, mass communications, and even before social media. Quick: how many Rabbis do you remember from the first century? How many Roman Emperors? Rulers of Persia, Egypt, China? How many people who were crucified by the Roman government?

leadership

The Roman Empire is long gone, yet Jesus established a kingdom on earth that people everywhere still recognize. His story had been told throughout history, throughout the world. His organization did not follow any earthly blueprint for success. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t go to the best schools or have earthly wealth; his recruits were fishermen, tradesmen, students, and even a traitor.

In a very surprising twist, he came as a servant and always gave glory to someone else. Jesus was vulnerable, honest and forthright; and he was killed at a young age by men who wielded earthly power. Yet in spite of all of those things, his kingdom thrives today, twenty-one centuries later…

Not What Everyone Expected

Which leads to observation #2: His leadership was totally counter-cultural. Even though he was GOD, He humbled himself. He didn’t leverage deity to try to be important, as Caesar did; he came as a servant and served. The contrast between the way Jesus led and the way our leaders do is still dramatic. How many of our Congressmen and Presidents these days are wealthy? How many of them ACTUALLY serve anyone?

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Maybe our criteria for leadership is a bit flawed… If we only selected leaders with humility who are willing to serve, I bet the world would be a better place. I bet it would look a lot more like the place that Jesus left in order to come here.

Upside-down Leadership

Leaders lust for power, fortune, fame, and for renown;
God took earthly leadership and turned it upside down.
Earthly leaders like to strut, but God threw them a curve,
And sent a spiritual king whose only mission was to serve.
What if leaders acted like they all were heaven-sent?
Would it change the Congress, or the current president?

Jesus was a servant. You just think of that, because
I wonder how our world would be if EVERY leader was?
For Jesus that’s only way a leader is defined;
Sadly, servant leadership is pretty hard to find;
(It’s not the way our leaders or our culture is inclined)
But if you’re called to leadership, then please keep that in mind.

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

Wake Up and Live, Now! Don’t be One of the Walking Dead

Too Late?

Lazarus had died, and it seemed to everyone that his good friend Jesus had arrived too late to help him live. But like he does on so many occasions, Jesus offered a different perspective: “These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” (John 11:11, NKJV) And of course the rest is history. Jesus went. Lazarus was raised from the dead and was given new life!

Have you ever thought about how Lazarus must have felt AFTER Jesus called him out of the tomb? We know how much his sisters loved him, and I can only imagine the joy when their family was reunited in such a dramatic way.

John described Lazarus’ post-resurrected celebrity, as well as how the Pharisees felt about him in John 12:9-11: “Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

Different people had different motives for wanting to get a glimpse of Lazarus. Some wanted to confirm that their friend was newly risen from the dead; some were just plain curious.

Some People Will Hate you Just For Being Happy

The Pharisees had a different motivation. They wanted to kill him. The Sanhedrin had been planning to kill Jesus, but they figured they better get rid of Lazarus, too, since he was living proof of the Master’s work. It’s kind of amazing to think that not everybody was happy with Lazarus’ new life. But I bet Lazarus was! Do you think he lived each day with heightened appreciation, with a greater sense of joy and purpose?

Surely he did, because he had been brought back from the dead by the Living God. He had new life! He was given a second chance! Lazarus went from being one of Jesus’ friends to perhaps his most devoted follower. Of course, that brings up a couple of questions.

1) Have you been given new life by the Son of God? Theologically, that’s the position and experience of everyone who follows Jesus. Paul says in Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin are death, which means we can be spiritually dead even while we are physically alive. However, once we decide to accept God’s grave by faith, Paul says this: “God has made you alive, who were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

If you read those verses, one truth emerges. There are two kinds of people in our world: those who are alive, and those who are the walking dead. They are physically alive but spiritually unaware.

Live, Today

We can live a fresh new day of our eternal life TODAY! So, do you live each day with a heightened sense of appreciation, and with greater joy and purpose? One of our daily themes at Eagle Lake Camp was, “I will live today as if it were my last!” Perhaps we can learn from Lazarus, who truly knew what that meant.

Come to think of it, what would life be like if you took the inverse of that and said, “I will live each day as if it were my FIRST!”? What if you looked at life today as if it were brand new? How would the world look today if seeing it was a brand new experience? What if you were experiencing love for the first time? Laughing? Meeting and interacting with people as if was your very first day? Lazarus did, and so can we. If you’ve been the recipient of new life, act like it!

2) Are you a member of the walking dead, or are you now awake like Lazarus? As you walk freely on the earth, are you living proof of the Master’s work? When Lazarus came forth, do you think he had a new vision and a new set of dreams? Did people around him look at him differently, and did he change his behavior, breaking free from his grave-clothes to walk towards new life and new possibilities? Paul Valery said, “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” It happened for Lazarus. It can happen for us.

live Lazarus

A Most Unusual Funeral

Jesus wept. His good friend Lazarus lay there in the grave,
And everybody mourned the man who Jesus came to save.
They'd all come for a funeral, from the south and from the north;
But Jesus prayed and then he cried out, "Lazarus, come forth!"
And somewhere, from within the grave a rustling sound was heard;
From within the darkened cave a waking man had stirred!
Lazarus, blinking in the light, was walking! People froze,
Astounded at the man who stumbled in his burial clothes.
Lazarus must have paused and wondered how this came to be;
So Jesus said, "He lives. Unloose his bonds, and set him free."

You might think this miracle was something rare to see,
But I was dead; and Jesus also said those words to me!
Now, I walk this earth alive, and I am very sure
That death would take us all, but Jesus is the only cure.

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

Want to Discover God’s Will? Then Here’s What to Do:

Finding the Secret

Ever wish you knew up front what God’s will is going to be for the rest of your life? Wouldn’t it make things easier if we knew exactly what God wanted us to do? The Bible says there are ways we can discover what that is. One of those ways is found in how we communicate with God.

Do you usually spend your prayer time asking God to help with someone else’s health issues or perhaps current events? Interesting, then, that when Jesus taught about prayer he began by talking more about God’s authority and God’s will. Maybe that’s a good place for us to start as well… “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10, NIV)

Knowing God’s Will

In the Lord’s Prayer (or the “Our Father” prayer), Jesus encouraged us to ask for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. What would that look like? How would your daily life be different if God’s will were fully accomplished here on earth? What is God’s will for YOUR life, and how do you know what it is?

The obvious place to start is to ASK for it: “Father, YOUR will be done”. But making that statement is not only a request, it is a submission. It presupposes that you have placed yourself, today, in subjugation to God’s purposes and plans. “Thy will be done” is a launching pad for discovering God’s plans for you.

Here are a couple of references that provide some insight: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17, NIV). John says that God’s will is different than what the world desires, that they will pass away.

How do material things stack up against abundant, eternal life? Equating God’s will with wealth, comfort, fame, or material things is like trying to compare a fun date with an awesome fifty year marriage. They both have their relative merits, but they are far different in quantity AND quality. Where God’s will is done, John says, there is eternal life. Instead of asking for success or material blessings, isn’t it easier to say “Thy will be done.”?

God's will

So, if I Ask for God’s Will, Will My Life Get Easier?

Doing God’s will does not necessarily guarantee comfort or safety. It does involve achieving what God wants and receiving what He promised. Praying in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39, NIV). Saying, “Thy will be done” requires stepping out in faith that God’s plans and purposes are greater than ours.

Knowing God’s will is accomplished by doing God’s will. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36, NIV). The reason for pursuing and doing God’s will is not to find some magic formula for successful living, but to recognize who HE is and who we are. What gifts and abilities has He given you? What is your mission or purpose? Has God made any promises to you? “Thy will be done” places all of those things before the Father.

Becoming Part of the Family

The Bible also says that doing God’s will places us in the right relationship to our Father. “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35, NKJV) It is really stressful chasing around trying to discover God’s will. We should not become stressed with the idea of finding “God’s Will”, but we should 1) Acknowledge it every day; 2) submit our gifts and abilities to the Lord’s plans, and 3) enjoy having an intimate relationship with the Father: we should simply FALL IN LOVE with God.

Sometimes when you think you have God’s will figured out, you get all wrapped around the thing you think He is doing, or where you think He might be taking you. Instead, just focus on HIM–walking with Him, enjoying His presence, and immersing yourself in his love. I think the rest will sort itself out. God sees all ends and has your best interests at heart, and will ultimately bring all things into alignment with the good pleasure of His will.

Paul says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11) What if we prayed every day, “Your will be done today, Father. Not as I will, but as YOU will”? I bet we would “receive what He has promised.”

Whose Will Is It Today?

Trade the thrills and pocket-fills, and cease the petty game of wills.
Embrace the Father like the Son. Pray: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Don’t just pray for your requests; the kind of prayer that works the best
Is asking God to do His will. He did it then. He does it still.

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

Four Dimensions of God’s Love: Height, Width, Depth, Length

A Deeper Look at Four Dimensions

In yesterday’s post I challenged you to look in John 3:16 and see the four dimensions of God’s love that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 3:17; Take a moment now and read John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”)

four dimensions of love

Now ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? And how deep? How long? After you have paused to reflect on that, make a list of the four dimensions–height, width, depth, and length–and jot down how John 3:16 applies to each one. Then compare your thoughts to my observations below:

How High is It?

How high is it? God’s love is infinitely high, defined by the character of the one who extended it: GOD. It comes from above us in every way. It is purer than what we call love, more committed, more personal, more selfless, more complete and more complex than our earthly perception allows. Isaiah 55:9 says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Think higher than Everest, higher than the heavens, and beyond the vast reaches of infinite space…

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above; Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…

How Wide?

How wide is it? It is so wide that it includes EVERYONE. Every color, creed, culture and character is under the span of God’s amazing love. “God so loved the WORLD (Yes, Grace is available to everyone) so that WHOEVER believes is saved…” Romans 10:13 says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

2 Peter 3:9 says, “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.” God’s love is as wide as every person who ever had a choice.

No need to hide from love that cannot be denied, It changes who you are inside, And ultimately you become His bride– And not just you but everyone who believes, receives, Yes every. One. So if you wondered: that’s how wide…

Plumb its Depths

How deep is it? It is so deep that God spared no expense and paid the ultimate price to extend it. He gave his ONLY begotten son. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap. It cost God his Son; it cost his Son his life. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

God is not an automaton without feelings or emotions, and yet the loving, jealous, passionate God allowed His Son to experience the cross in MY place. Read that sentence again. Seamlessly together for eternity past, they separated. The only perfect and unified force in the universe tore itself apart for us. Without any guarantee apart from His own character that everything would go as planned, God sacrificed his Son and Christ died. That, my friends, is DEEP.

Don’t Forget How Long

How LONG is it? The verse concludes with, “So that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING life!” How long is THAT? There was a song from 1957 by Johnny Mathis where he said he would love his girlfriend “until the Twelfth of Never. And that’s a long, long time.” EVERLASTING is longer than that.

A thousand, ten thousand years from now, we will all be somewhere, perhaps remembering when we first opened our hearts to the four dimensions of God’s love. I hope because I know that you and I will be still be experiencing those four dimensions, and we will just be getting started.

There they are: John 3:16, the four dimensions of God’s amazing love. You are welcome.

Love in Four Dimensions

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above;  
Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…
That love is in God's Character, reflecting who He is;
So if you wonder just how high it is, remember this:
The love extends beyond the sky, as lofty as the world is wide--
Don't hide from love that cannot be denied!
It changes who you are inside, and ultimately you become His bride-- 
And not just you but everyone who believes, receives: Yes every. One.
It's as wide, you see, as Calvary, and that's how it was done.
God made the ultimate payment at a cost that was infinitely steep;
Salvation may be free, my friends, but it was never cheap:
God sacrificed His only Son for us. His love is deep.
That love will live beyond this world, forever and a day:
(The love that's higher, wider, deeper than these words can say!)
The love of God will far outlast the words within this rhyme:
Beyond the twelfth of never, friends! (And that's a long, long time!)

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

Four Dimensions, Deeper Love: How God Loves You Back

In Ephesians, Paul mentions the four dimensions of God’s love as if everyone knew about them; so tell me, have YOU ever thought about the four dimensions of Christ’s love? In his book of superlatives, Paul talks about where God’s love is planted, and what it looks like. Even if you think you have love all figured out, his description is a revelation that will push your boundaries and redefine your limits!

four dimensions

Why Four?

In this eloquent prayer for his friends in Ephesus, Paul expresses the fervent hope “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18 NIV).

In this passage from Ephesians Paul calls out the four dimensions of God’s love. Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Have you ever truly grasped the width and length and height and depth of the love of God?

In this world, our perception of God is limited. We look at Him through a finite lens, and even when we think we see Him as majestic and incomparable, perhaps we are leaving something on the table… First Corinthians 13:12 confirms: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Paul claims that there is more to love than we see, and that it has dimensions that go beyond our perception.

The Shemah

Paul’s definition of love is steeped in the Hebrew Shema, which reminded believers to love God with every means at our disposal: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Jesus quoted that passage in Matthew 22:37 when challenged to give the greatest commandment.). So do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind? Have you grasped the four dimensions of God’s love?

In this life we dabble about with romantic love, we cherish motherly love, we love our friends, and of course we love animals and food and possessions and things. And we talk about God’s love… But Paul’s picture of love suggests that God’s love is infinite and powerful and amazing: perhaps we can broaden our perception.

All Means All

First, he says that we need to be ROOTED and ESTABLISHED in love. This suggests going deeper, taking nourishment, and transforming like a seed does when it gives life to a new plant. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Paul says that when we connect with love’s transforming power, we will see the dimensions of God’s love. Read a verse you’re familiar with, John 3:16, and think about the four dimensions of God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The verse that everybody knows contains the truth and power about God’s love that everybody should grasp. Look in John 3:16 and ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? And how deep? How long? They’re in there. Read that verse and make a list. Go deeper.

Love in Four Dimensions

Paul tells folks in Ephesus (and also tells the rest of us)
That perfect, Godly love will start with Jesus dwelling in my heart.
The love of Christ Paul mentions, he defines with four dimensions,
So awesome they can make you weep: it’s wide, and high, and long and deep!
Investigate what that must mean. Read John, the verse is 3:16,
And make a list right there beside: how long, how high, how deep, how wide?
It’s there, if you go deep enough: the four dimensions of God’s love…

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 Demand Wiser Ways. Be Careful out There.

An Undeniable Trend

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV) Stop for a moment and think about the world around you. Is the world getting better and better? Do you see mankind evolving upward towards better values? Is our culture more wholesome and encouraging than it was ten years ago?

I used to hear older people talking sadly about how there seemed to be more evil in the world now than there used to be. They would reminisce about the “good old days”, when neighbors were more neighborly, it was safe for kids to play “down the street”, and you never heard a cuss word or saw nudity on your TV. And that was over 40 years ago! Now I AM one of the older people, and I feel the same way, but even more so!

Look around. Standards have changed. A Jack in the Box commercial on TV recently was selling their new bowls by using phrases generally applied to male anatomy, making a poor play on words at best, and a comparison that doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy a pair, SMH… (That’s “Shaking My Head” if you’re not up on internet acronyms.) The “poop” emoji is now on billboards as if it has marketing value. We accept these allusions and buy these products today without a thought.

Going, Going…

Not only has decency begun to disappear, but so has truth. Journalists and politicians lie so subtly (and so constantly) that you don’t know what to believe anymore. Half-truths and accusations are disseminated so frequently as facts that they are often accepted as true. Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said that if you tell a big enough lie, and tell it often enough, it would become accepted as fact.

Our communications culture demonstrates this every day. Narratives are created and fed to us over and over. His words could be applied to our media (the way they report about Covid and masks causes more confusion than illumination), and to the hateful bipolar atmosphere in America today. People will gladly ignore truth if it will help them get ratings, clicks, or attention.

evil days

Today’s values and standards are definitely different than they were “back in the day.” Commercials on TV reach out to consumers by saying “Break the rules!” Abortion is considered just another birth control option. High school kids go to movies that promote sex and violence, even as youth groups take a stand against human sex trafficking. Our culture is extending legalization of marijuana, so that better living through chemistry can become even more common. Gambling is available to anyone who wants it.

Moving the Line

Our children (and our neighbors) have internet access to virtually anything, and are bombarded with everything from non-stop materialism to hard-core pornography. Video games make death and violence commonplace, because after all, they’re just games.

Music (which weaves its way into our brains forever—quick! How many songs do you remember from when you were a teenager?) is full of stories about breakups, drugs, sex, and casual relationships. Hip hop and heavy metal are full of anger, abuse and violence. Interpersonal relationships are changing rapidly, falling away from the personal touch of conversation and affection to on-screen interaction, where it is easier to lie, misrepresent, and misunderstand…There were evil days in 60 AD (when Paul wrote this), and they are evil still…

How do we respond wisely to them? James 1:5 says if you want to be wise, go to the source: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” If you would truly like to make the most of every opportunity in this life, then ask the Lord for wisdom. Apply it to your decisions about what you watch, who you listen to, and what you believe.

“Be very careful, then, about how you live.” Put another way, Paul is encouraging you to be full of care, to care deeply about how to live. Avoid evil and choose good wisely. Ask the very source of Wisdom to give you some, and study it in His Book. When calamity strikes or when opportunity knocks, you’ll be ready. Evil days surround you. don’t be unwise.

Some Things Never Change

Be careful how you live, because we live in evil days,
And evil tries to infiltrate our lives in many ways.
There’s no regard for gender, creed, infirmity, or youth;
It challenges our decency, integrity and truth.
Stop and look around your world, and don’t believe the lies.
Be careful how you live, and make an effort to be wise.
Do you want to find some wisdom? Here is where to look:
You’ll find it when you talk to God, and study in His Book.
Allow your heart and mind to join with His in Holy unity;
Be careful, then and make the most of every opportunity.

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

The Powerful Dash In Moses’ Prayer: What Does It Mean? Why Is It There?

There is a weird place in a prayer in the Old Testament, which I had read several times without even noticing. Maybe you caught the meaning of the dash, but if you didn’t then today’s thoughts will show you something new:

Look for the Dash

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

dash

Best Summer Ever

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

What has stayed with me longest from that summer are the lessons learned from several of the Navigator leaders like Lorne Sanny and Leroy Eims who came out from Glen Eyrie and taught us from time to time. (I later realized that since we met at 6:00 am, these godly men must have gotten up at 4:00 am to be there to teach us!) Their insights into Scripture and the practical way they applied it are still foundational for me almost 50 years later.

Insights from the Mountain

Leroy Eims taught us this particular passage, and pointed out the almost humorous exchange between God and Moses in Verses 7 and 10. “And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For YOUR people whom YOU brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” Moses’ answer was classic, almost like two parents whose child has done something wrong, so that neither parent wants to claim responsibility.

“Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against YOUR people whom YOU have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” The way Moses interacted with God is marvelous, and certainly provides us some solid principles about how to pray: be candid; be fully expressed; be persistent.

Even more than these verses, though, is the principle revealed by the dash. Mr. Eims pointed out that in verse 32, there was this odd grammatical anomaly: “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” He read that verse, and then he asked us, “What’s the dash for?”(Of course, none of us had ever really noticed the dash or given it any thought.)

The Mystery of the Dash

He told us, “The dash represents a pause by the speaker, but it doesn’t really explain why. It’s there, but it doesn’t tell us WHY it’s there. I believe that as Moses was praying for his people, as he contemplated the consequences of what they had done, he was overcome with emotion and broke down, unable to continue. He was so overcome with grief and empathy that he couldn’t even complete his sentence. When he regained his composure, he finished by putting his own eternal security on the line for his people.”

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

The Dash in the Prayer

The people of Israel made them a calf
So Moses prayed on their behalf
And asked the Lord His judgment to withhold
Because they had worshipped a idol calf of gold.
While he was praying and asking for grace,
Tears were streaming from Moses’ face
As he considered his nation’s fate
Which was just too awful to contemplate.
And in his prayer there was a pause;
Maybe it’s in there just because,
But really it’s kind of a mystery
That’s written in Scripture for all to see.

That little dash in the incomplete prayer:
What does it mean, and why is it there?

It’s there because Moses couldn’t take
The way they would pay for their mistake;
While praying, his shoulders began to shake:
How could Israel be so dumb?

As Moses prayed he was overcome,
And couldn’t continue because of his tears,
His love for them, and his greatest fears,
And he asked for his own life to be traded
In hopes that judgment could be abated.

That little dash in the incomplete prayer:
The emotional power residing there
Is more than words could ever show.
Why is the dash there? We don’t know,
But someday I will ask Moses why,
And if he broke down and began to cry…
Help me, Lord , have some prayers with a dash in;
Help me to pray with emotion and passion.

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