Incarnation: Maybe it REALLY Means “Like Father, Like Son”

The whole notion of incarnation is somewhat mysterious and unfathomable. It literally means “in the flesh”, and refers to God taking on human form. Matthew 1:20-21 speaks about it like this: “an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

So, according to Matthew, you take an infinite, all-powerful god and place him into a frail human body. He accepts limitations of time and space; and he walks upon the very earth he created! It sounds kinda like something out of Greek mythology, where the gods often came back and forth to earth. Those fanciful accounts are obvious fabrications, so why would Christians say that Jesus was God in human form? What evidence is there to suggest that the whole Jesus story is not just some first-century fabrication? Well, take a closer look at the incarnation and you’ll see it: Like Father, Like Son…

What, Exactly, Does the Bible Say About Incarnation?

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15, 18-20 NIV)

Christ’s resurrection (which we just celebrated on Easter) was important for so many reasons. 1) It AUTHENTICATED the incarnation, or who Jesus was: he was not just an itinerant rabbi, he was the incarnation of the invisible God. An image can ONLY reflect the original, and do exactly what the original does. Stand in front of a mirror and try it! Your image will do what you do. There are different concepts out there about incarnation, but none as simple and profound as Jesus. Several mystic and mythological religions utilize the concept of a god becoming man, but they are only cheap imitations of the REAL thing.

incarnation

If you want to determine whether or not physical representations of the Almighty are actually God, then investigate what they did and what they taught. Jesus of Nazareth was unique in his time, in his culture, in his approach, and in his impact. As “God with skin on”, Jesus showed us what the Father looks like. The incarnation means that Jesus is the visible image of a spiritual God, and you know what? We can be, too.

Evidence that Deserves Reflection

2) It CONFIRMED the possibility of eternal life. As the firstborn from the dead, Christ opened the very gates of hell and demonstrated a new possibility of triumph over death. If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christians are the greatest fools in history; there is no evidence of eternal life; and we should be, as Paul says, “of all men most miserable.”

3) The resurrection VALIDATED Christ’s position as the incarnation: he is the head of the church, the pure expression of the Father’s fullness in human form… God’s fullness burst forth in new life not only for Him but for us. He has supremacy in everything. He earned his position not by conquest, not by coercion, but by humility and sacrifice; and He represented the pure incarnation of the Father in human form.

4) Finally, it proved that he RECONCILED us to God: the wages of sin are death, and every human after Adam was held to account for their trespasses. The only hope seemed to be in keeping the law (at which all men failed) or having faith in an unlikely promise of redemption. Christ’s position enabled him to keep that promise (since his voluntary death paid our accounts in full). His incarnation demonstrated the result of being reconciled: LIFE! If Christ is in you, then the reconciled, eternal life you have can now reflect the very image of God.

Reflecting the Attributes of the Original

Here’s an illustration about how that works: I may not be a great tennis player, but what if the spirit and presence of Roger Federer could unzip my skin and step into me and guide my body with his will and understanding of the game? I would think differently, and I would certainly play tennis differently. Yeah there would be some limitations (because after all he’d have to play with MY body), but if Roger put my skin on, I’d be able to play tennis at a much higher level.

God calls us to be yielded to His authority, and to be inhabited by His Spirit. He wants to express His love and character through us just as He did with Jesus; in fact, history is FULL of examples of people who committed acts of courage, or selfless love because they were touched by the incarnation of God, and allowed His Spirit to literally guide them into new behaviors and new actions. Doesn’t that just fill your day with new possibilities? Raise your game. Smile at someone today as if God was smiling through you to them. Then do everything else as if He was, too. You know what? He is.

Incarnation or Fabrication?

God resides in grandeur on a universal scale;
His majesty is cosmic in its space:
God created galaxies beyond the crystal veil,
And used His power to put each one in place.
Some say God Almighty then became the Incarnation
To execute a grand redemptive plan;
Others say that such a tale is only fabrication,
And there’s no way that God became a man…
And yet there’s Jesus: humbly serving, healing, loving, warm–
Showing us that there’s another way:
Is it somehow possible that God in human form
Was born in Bethlehem on Christmas 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

Canon [Under] Fire: But Remember, the Canon Shoots Both Ways

The Canon is the official standard list of books that make up the Bible. People ask all the time, “why are those books in the Bible? Why aren’t other books in there as well?” People unfamiliar with Scripture are often critical of it without doing any research about where it came from or how reliable it is.
If you are curious, here are some facts about the Canon [under] Fire. How did the Bible Get to be the Bible? Read these with an unbiased mind, and decide for yourself if they have merit:

Perspired or Inspired?

First of all, the Bible stakes its claim as being the inspired Word of God. [The Lord said to Moses] “You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth. I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.” (Exodus 4:15-16, NIV)

One of the great questions regarding Scripture is, “Who wrote it, and therefore whose words is it speaking to us? According to Moses, who was reluctant to even represent God or to speak on His behalf, God was literally going to put the words into His mouth.
This type of process was reiterated by David in 2 Samuel 23:2 (who said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”).

God repeated this process in Isaiah 59:21 (“my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips”), and in Jeremiah 1:9. Jeremiah said “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth”. Paul told Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16)  that Scripture is God’s word, literally “God-breathed” into His selected authors. When you consider that over 40 different authors combined to publish a cohesive revelation over 30 centuries’ span, it does make one pause and reflect…

canon

How Was the Canon Established?

This process of spiritual authorship and inspiration has come under fire within modern academia, and lots of people are skeptical about the Bible. They question its reliability, and whether or not the right books were included in its present form. Here are a few things to think about:
1. The current books of the Bible are known as the Canon, which literally means “a standard or measure”.

2. The OT canon was complete by 424 BC. That’s BC, folks. Jesus accepted its authenticity and its format, so I would be inclined to agree with Him.

3. The Hebrew People were fanatical about preserving their book without any variation or error. The Scribes were a professional group dedicated to copying Scriptures verbatim and preserving them for all time. That’s all they did. All the time.

Old or New?

4. So, what about the New Testament? Isn’t is just put together from a bunch of sayings and fragments? How do we know it’s really what Jesus said? Consider this. Few scholars would dispute the integrity or textual purity of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”, which is validated by 10 extant originals, plus fragments. The NT is based on over 4,000 originals, with over 10,000 more partial copies or fragments. Why would anyone accept Caesar’s book but question the New Testament?

5. The primary list of books in the NT was essentially completed by early church Fathers around 170 AD (within a generation of authorship, which is EARLY). There was still debate and discussion about the final Biblical list until around 380 AD when the Gelasian Decree was published.

It is interesting to note: “Besides the personal writings of the Church Fathers from the early second to the mid-third century, there are no fewer than ten ancient catalogues of the New Testament books in existence. Of these ten, six are completely in accord with our present canon, while three of them omit only the book of Revelation, and one the book of Hebrews.” (from McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia, s.v . “Canon,” IV, 2.)

Why Recognize the Canon?

It is important to recognize the Bible as canon because it demands that it be treated as a whole, as one book. It proclaims the authority of Scripture and its usefulness to Christians. Furthermore, “the process of canonization would be described, not as an arbitrary act of decision or political imposition, but as a Spirit-directed process of discernment and judgment.” (John Webster, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, “Canon”, page 99).

For my money, when you consider authorship, content, cohesion, the method, and the message it presents, the Bible is true. It’s an authentic revelation form God! It’s a LOT more difficult for someone to prove that the Bible is not the authentic Word of God than for me to maintain that it IS. Canon fire shoots both ways. If you want to argue that the Bible isn’t true, what evidence can you offer to say it’s not? Have you really investigated the Bible as a unique work of literature that has highly unusual qualifications?

The Canon provides a foundation for the Bible as Scripture, as a book compiled by over 40 different authors over a period of 2000 years that tells one story and points to events that changed history. It’s worth your time to investigate that story before you reject it. (https://christianheritagefellowship.com/canonization-of-the-bible/#top)

Don’t Fire the Canon

Doubters say the Bible couldn’t be a holy book,
When most of them have never given it a deeper look.
There are many facts that speak to Scripture’s authenticity,
And validate its authorship, its source and historicity.
Its Books are criticized and doubted more than dinosaurs,
Yet it has more proof of life than Caesar’s “Gaelic Wars”!
The Canon was created with the greatest of intentions,
And has more facts supporting it than I have room to mention!
Those who shoot the canon with a critic’s fiery blaze
Would do well to remember that the Canon shoots both ways.

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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Testament to the Truth: The Old Prepared the Way for the New

Minor Prophets not so Minor

You may have noticed names like Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi over the last few days as we have worked our way through the “Minor” Prophets. Perhaps you’ve also noticed a larger trend: over the last 40 days or so we have touched base with every book in the Old Testament, (which means if you have been following along, you have now read at least a part of every book in the entire Old Testament.) Way to GO!

This amazing and unique collection of writings stands alone among other ancient literature. It established a universally acknowledged standard of law, encouraged us to act with faith and vision, and it gave us glimpses of a Creator who is not only above us but also among us and for us. He is not a whimsical, capricious deity but the God who created us, cares about us, and came from beyond us.

The Old Testament is Amazing

In Isaiah 55:8 He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In Jeremiah 29:11 He says, “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.”

When talking to Moses, He identified Himself not as the Almighty God of the Universe, but as the personal God of relationship, saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6). In the Old Testament we have been encouraged to have courage (Deuteronomy 31:6). We are called to seek and depend upon God’s presence (Judges 6). The Old Testament demonstrates stubborn love in the beautiful story of Ruth.

In the story of David we saw both triumph and tragedy, rejoicing and repentance. The Old Testament offers advice about good leadership (Exodus 18:19-21), how to live (Proverbs) and even offers some surprising insight about how to have a great sex life (Song of Solomon). It also points consistently to a Messiah who will come, not as a reigning Monarch but as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).

Between Malachi and Matthew

During the time between the Testaments, Israel suffered at the hands of invaders and despots who destroyed their temple and deported their leaders. In the midst of their devastation there were always glimpses of hope, and they were always a people who clung stubbornly to the idea that God would redeem them and love them through the coming Messiah. Even while predicting gloom and doom, men like Zephaniah and Malachi provided striking images of joy that included a tender lullaby or a frolicking calf…

The richness and depth of the Old Testament tell the story of God’s revelation. He is the Creator who made all things. He is the Lord who walked with Adam and Enoch. Because he valued relationships, He identified himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Working through the Old Testament provides a rich historical and spiritual backdrop that offers insight about the Coming King.

testament

A Journey You Can See in the Mirror

There is also the very curious parallel that Israel’s story has for every believer: their journey begins in faith; they are enslaved by the culture and values of a foreign land; they have to be rescued from “the fleshpots of Egypt” through miraculous means; even though they have experienced God’s presence they often long to return to their previous life; their old ways result in evil consequences, and they are motivated to repent and accept God’s authority once again.

They are headed to the Promised Land, temporary sojourners whose reward is in front of them, influenced by God’s Spirit but dabbling in the flesh: imperfect, often unfaithful followers of the God who offers them refuge and promises them He will not leave them or forsake them. Sound familiar?

The Old Testament provided a foundation and set the stage for the New Testament, where we are going next. I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the snapshots from Habakkuk, Hosea, Esther, Job…the have prepared us for “the rest of the story.” As we go forward, we will take a tour through every New Testament book as well, so that by the end of another 30 days or so, you will have read through every book in the Bible. I hope you will see the message of hope and love that resides in each of them, and that it will whet your appetite for more!

Two Testaments, One Story

Read the Bible. If you can, you’ll
Have a living owner’s manual,
Full of drama, wisdom, history,
Kings, adultery, even mystery;
Prophets bringing holy fire,
Psalms that lift your spirit higher;
The older Testament and the New
With literature designed for YOU,
Stories full of love and loss,
A hero lifted on a cross!
Sin required an awful price,
And Jesus made the sacrifice.
No matter what your time or place,
Your nationality or race,
God offers His Amazing Grace
To everyone who seeks His face.
At least, that’s what my Bible says…

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

Covenants, Old and New: Old Fashioned, or Cutting Edge?

Covenants are a more definitive way to describe contracts that have more substance or are of greater importance. It has been applied to politics, real estate law, and religion. Outside of those parameters we don’t seem to use it much. Surely covenants are old-fashioned, a thing of the past, right? The Bible is an ancient book, and it speaks about them over and over:

Where are Covenants in the Bible?


“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV).

“I will bless those who bless you [Abraham], and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3, NIV)
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25, NIV)

So, why talk about covenants?

If the Bible is clear about anything, it is that God is the God of covenants. He made one with Noah (Genesis 9:9), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2:24), Moses (Exodus 19:5), David (2 Samuel 7:28), and with us (1 Corinthians 11:25).

What Did the Covenants Mean?

It is highly noteworthy that the Lord operates this way, and it teaches us some important things about His character and personality because he does. Here are a few observations:

1. In the Egyptian world and culture (among many others), people and priests were constantly making gods in the image of things; these gods were extensions of the physical creation, portrayed in the images of created things. Out of nowhere, Moses rises up and proclaims a God who stands apart from things, who instead asserts that He will not abide any physical representation of Himself, and that He alone is the creator of man, who is made in His OWN very image.

As the creator, He operates in the context of relationships, and calls mankind to walk with Him in faith. He created a covenant to define and extend His relationship with fallen man, and to provide context about how sinful man could still engage with a Holy creator.

covenants

2. While it may seem parochial and odd to us that God chose the Hebrew people, and that He gave the revelation about Himself to a chosen few, it was never His intent to limit that revelation or relationship to Israel. In Genesis 12 he told Abram the reason he had called him: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God extends covenants in order to extend blessing, a process that is still happening today. The Creator loves and wants to bless those whom He created in His image. Which brings us to

What Do Covenants Have to Do with Us?


3. Covenants are not some ancient ritual that faded into the distant past. Jesus intentionally connected his life and work to God’s covenants. The new covenant he described to his disciples is still alive and powerful today, and is celebrated in every mass and every Lord’s Supper around the world. Even as we celebrate it, remember that it is not ritual and it is not legalistic, but it is an act of spiritual devotion. The fact that it calls so many people into community is evidence of its spiritual reality.

As Hebrews 8:10 says, “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” These three observations bring to mind three questions: How’s your relationship with your Creator? Who is God blessing through you? How full of God’s character and personality is your heart? Those might be great questions to ask yourself the next time you participate in the Lord’s Supper. Or, yeah, every day.

Covenants Old and New

Take a contract, fix a seal to show the world that it is real;
In the Garden, from the flood, the covenants were sealed with blood
That bound participants fast and firm to all prerequisites and terms.
Make each contract hard and fast; Make it binding, make it last.
This New Covenant, finally, will pay the Garden’s penalty:
“This is my body, take and eat”: this covenant is bittersweet;
“This my blood for you was shed–for you I died, for you I bled”–
Creating a covenant from the start that touches every human heart.

This new covenant was designed with you and all your friends in mind;
When Justice makes its cruel demand,
Within this covenant take your stand:
Here upon sin’s battlefield, Christ has offered us His shield!
God’s good Grace has been revealed;
By his stripes we have been healed,
And by His blood we have been sealed.

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

Frolic Like a Well-Fed Calf in the Midst of Destruction

An Unusual Message From the Messenger

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty… “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” (Malachi 3:1; 4:1-2, NIV)

This is Day 40 of working through every book in the Bible. It is our last day of the Old Testament, and it is fitting when you think about it: Malachi blends the harsh message of judgement with a softer picture of grace.

frolic

Malachi foresaw a messenger who prepared the way of the Lord, and he saw the Lord standing in the temple as the messenger of the covenant. Who did his prophecy refer to? Knowing “the rest of the story”, we can see this was fulfilled by John the Baptist preparing the way and Jesus coming to earth to fulfill the covenant and to initiate a new one.

An Attitude That’s in Short Supply

Malachi also saw the day of the Lord coming like a furnace, burning away wood, hay and stubble, destroying “the arrogant and the evildoer”. He says it will leave only those who revere the name of the Lord. Hmmm… Revere means to honor, to treat with deep respect. What do you revere? For what do you have reverence? Reverence is in pretty short supply these days. Finding reverence in private takes concentration and work, and finding it in public settings is extremely uncommon. (Maybe people think that being reverent will make things too dull, and take all the fun out of life…)

Malachi says that an arrogant society, focused on selfish rights and every possible petty slight does not revere much except itself. In the day of the Lord, the proud and selfish will be in for a rude awakening, caught in the light and energy of God in such a way that all of the self-consumed will BE consumed.

The Surprising Result of Reverence

Those who revere God, however, will find healing in His light. They will find in Him the dawn of a new day. They will “frolic like well-fed calves”. This is yet another surprising image springing out of the pages of harsh judgement. Have you ever seen calves frolic? (Think: baby goats!) They hop, they bounce, and they gambol, full of random joy that can’t be contained. They are so excited they can’t stand still, and their playful attitude is contagious. True reverence doesn’t make things dull. It brings JOY! So you have two assignments today: Revere God. Frolic!

The Dance of Reverence

Have you ever watched the frolic of calves,
Who bounce with joy, and not by halves?
Who gambol and race at the merest chance,
Expressing delight in an awkward dance?
Have you ever seen the things they do?
Have you ever felt like frolicking, too?
Malachi said that that's the way
God's children will frolic, dance and play--
When the sun of righteousness starts to blaze,
And the Kingdom of Heaven spreads its rays
As the world abounds with astounding praise.
May you worship and frolic for all of your days...

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

Hard Hearts Don’t Break, But They’ll Never Change the World

Life can be hard. The bumps and bruises we get as a toddler are nothing compared to the emotional distress of rejection in middle school. And the painful episodes in middle school don’t compare to the true heartbreak we often encounter as young adults. In a fallen world, we experience self-doubt, insecurity, rejection and loss. And it ain’t easy.

The brunt of human experience often wounds us, piercing our hearts and causing us to cover them with scar tissue that develops into hardened armor. As Paul Simon once put it, “I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island…And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.” His plaintive song in the 60’s was a generational cry against pain and rejection.

Hard hearts turn us into the Spiritual Flintstones, blocking not only pain but empathy as well. Not only do we become less sensitive to others, but we become desensitized to God and what He’s about. It even reaches the point where we strut about being proud of our emotional toughness. Apparently this dynamic existed all the way back in Zechariah’s day, and the Lord called him to preach about it.

Shell Games

hard hearts

“And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint…” (Zechariah 7:8-12, NIV)

The Lord tells us through Zechariah to “Show mercy and compassion to one another…” These verses outline some universal values that God seems to think are important. And just from driving around in Dallas traffic, I’d have to say that mercy and compassion are in pretty short supply. (And that’s just in MY car; from the way many others drive, I don’t think there’s much mercy or compassion radiating from THEIR cars, either! Hard hearts are everywhere!)

The Lord encourages us to be just, to drive considerately, to help those who are less fortunate, and to refrain from plotting evil against each other. These seem like pretty simple things to do, but how well do we do them? Encountering justice and consideration in our culture is an exception rather than the rule.

What Happens When Hearts are Hardened?

Besides encouraging us to pay attention to the Lord’s values, Zechariah also says there are results that come from NOT paying attention, from stubbornly turning our backs on God, and for refusing to listen to Him: our hearts can become as hard as flint. What do you suppose he meant by that? Hardened hearts become shielded from intimacy and they block themselves off from being vulnerable or open. Hard hearts have no mercy or compassion, no love, and no life. It makes sense that if God is love, and we shield ourselves from Him, then it follows that our hearts will not reflect His attributes and character.

But stop for a minute and look at that another way: if you want to have a strong, vibrant, living heart, then pay attention to God; get face to face with Him; be teachable; and listen for His truth. Discover what His values are and try to live by them. The fastest and surest way to change the culture around you is to change the one within you. Change your heart, and change the world…

Ain’t no Feeling in Those Hard Hearts

Administer true justice, and show mercy to your brother;
Treat others with respect, and have compassion towards each other.
If you persist with selfish pride to make it on your own,
Don’t be surprised to find your hardened heart has turned to stone.
A hardened heart, the Bible says, is something you can CHOOSE:
Just don’t forget it may be more than feelings that you 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

If Enough Isn’t Enough, There’s Something You Can Change

They tried and tried, to no avail. But perhaps the Rolling Stones were describing some of us when they said, “I can’t get no satisfaction”. All of us spend at least some of our time trying to get enough, whether it’s money or control or food or pleasure… But what do you do when having enough doesn’t satisfy? According to the Stones, you could try and try and try but still come up short.  And if you read your Bible, apparently Mick Jagger wasn’t the first one to say, “I can’t get no”, because Haggai said something very similar 3000 years ago:

enough

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. All of you drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:5-6, NIV)

When is Enough, Enough?

In 21st century America, we live in perhaps the most materialistic society in human history. We are avid money-makers and consumers. Most of our dreams of success picture us not in service to others, but surrounded by opulence and wealth. So what’s the big deal? Isn’t that the way we ought to live? Shouldn’t we have a lot of stuff?

Peter Lord said, “What you really believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.” And if we are honest, what we really care about most is evident by what we spend our time pursuing. In our culture, it’s “normal” to want to get ahead, to buy a nicer car and a bigger house. Like the Rolling Stones, we can’t get no satisfaction. We’ve tried. And we’ve tried… But it’s not enough.

Often, the end justifies the means, and we will fudge on values and family time to chase a “better life”. Frankly, no matter how we spin it as necessary, or normal, or even as a sign of Blessing, it’s really just all about money. We are a culture consumed with material things, chasing the bigger house and new Tesla. We have so much, but it’s never enough.

First Things First?

Haggai’s message was preached to people just like us. They were caught up in earning, eating and drinking. Yet they never had enough. They did not find satisfaction, and their plentiful harvests and full purses could not ever give them what they really needed.
I know Jesus said it to his disciples—and to us—but perhaps he was also thinking of Haggai’s audience when he said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).

If you’re like me, you probably have a lot of stuff. And while stuff is not evil in itself, if you have some vague discontent that floats around the back of your mind when you can’t sleep, perhaps there’s a reason. Perhaps “stuff” is not sufficient to complete us or make us whole. Based on Haggai’s sermon, if you are not satisfied, maybe you are seeking the wrong things first. Your purse may not be the only thing that has holes that need to be filled.

I Can’t Get No

If you feel that money is a sign of being blessed,
Then stop and give the motives of your heart a little test:
Are you truly satisfied with just the things you need,
Or is it possible that you could have a little greed?
Beware of having too much love for money, things, or stuff,
Since they can never satisfy, or offer you enough.
Seek God’s kingdom first, and let your heart with Him be thrilled,
Then check your purse, and see that all the holes it had are filled.

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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Zephaniah says the Almighty God Delights in You! Believe It!

There is a song your Creator is singing, and it is not the dirge of judgment or the chant of condemnation, it is the Lullaby of Delight. Often we are so focused on God’s righteousness and authority that we tend to forget His love. Zephaniah reflects on those attributes and reminds us that God is not limited to who we sometimes think He is…

Zephaniah

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV) Sometimes is it really nice to stop explaining the Bible or analyzing it just to bask for a while in one of its surprising images. Sometimes the emotional resonance outweighs the scholarly reflection.

A Warrior’s Love Song?

Look at this picture of the Lord in Zephaniah. God (the LORD, the Mighty Warrior) is WITH me, he takes great DELIGHT in me, and he REJOICES over me with singing. The Almighty God of the Universe is not just infinitely powerful, He is infinitely loving. In the middle of a book in which Zephaniah predicts death and destruction, he also offers us a depiction of delight.

The Lord is pictured here as singing over us, and the image is maternal and compassionate. While God is described as a mighty warrior, he is also at once loving and kind. Like a nesting bird protecting its fledglings, like a young mother singing a lullaby to her infant, the Lord holds us with tender love. He is not the God of vengeance who merely wants to rebuke us; He is the loving God who takes great delight in us.

Created and Called

His delight added the final touches to his creation, made perfectly to be our home until sin corrupted it. He delighted in walking with Adam in the garden. His delight brought the Ark to dry land; it was found in the bulrushes of the Nile and in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem. God’s delight sang to us in the Psalms, and invited us into conjugal bliss in Solomon’s Song. It called to us and warned us in the prophets and spoke lovingly to us across centuries before technology or media existed.

The Lord’s delight in you was demonstrated in relationships that were far more significant than friends with benefits. He made promises to his beloved. He kept them. The Lord showed his delight in you on the cross with a stubborn love that would not let you go. The Rabbi who spoke of love and meekness became a mighty warrior who did not quit until his work was finished. Zephaniah says that the mighty warrior sings a lullaby over you.

Are You Feeling What Zephaniah Felt?

This verse has been put into a praise song that says, “Quiet me with your holy love and rejoice over me with singing.” When is the last time your prayer to God simply asked Him to sing over you? When have you listened? Can you hear it, amidst the bustle of every day, the loving voice of a singing God? He bathes you in the light of a new day; he caresses you with gentle breezes… Bask in that for a moment. Climb up into God’s lap and sit for a spell. Can you feel surrounded and protected by His presence? Do you feel His smile lighting the room because you are there?

At the close of your day, do you sense Him drawing near? Listen to his song as it comforts you and surrounds you with joyful affection. Can you hear it, full of love and affirmation? Can you fall asleep each night secure in the Father’s lullaby? Would your life change if you saw yourself as God sees you? What if you saw yourself as delightful and loveable? According to Zephaniah, you are. God takes DELIGHT in you! Next time you look in the mirror, try to see yourself the way God sees you; then smile back at God’s precious child and rejoice!

Lullaby of Love

I created you to love, to have you love Me back,
Allowing you a will, a heart– a voice!
My righteous love provided you whatever you might lack,
While Good and Evil offered you a choice…

I remember walking in the garden hand in hand,
Enjoying perfect love before the Fall;
Sin distorted everything, and Justice now commands
That Judgment be applied to one and all.

Though the world has fallen, and the garden has grown wild,
And pangs of consequence expand the night,
You will always be my joy, my treasure, and my child,
And in you I will always take Delight.

If you listen closely, you will hear amidst the noise,
A Father’s song of love is breaking through,
Calling you to leave your worldly, temporary toys…
Listen! I am singing over you.

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

Amazed By the Awesome Universe? What if it Had a Creator?

I was standing outside looking at the stars the other night, and it hit me again that the universe is utterly amazing. I hope I am never so jaded that I fail to be amazed by the world around me. Looking up at the infinite expanse of space, I wondered: is God the Creator of all of this, or just a figment of our imagination? Is it all made by God, or is God all made up? Is there a God who really does things?

The Bible contends that God exists, and that He is active in our universe. “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV) This sentence is something that has confounded skeptics and caused debates. Does God do amazing things?

Is God really even out there? Believers say He is. The academic intellectual doubts it. Atheists scoff at the notion. What do you think? Have you ever seen God work, or felt His presence?

Is There a Method to Decide?

Has God really ever done anything in our midst that we would not believe, even if we were told? It is easy to look the world around us and fail to see God. He doesn’t appear on command, and you can’t detect Him with your senses. On the one hand, there are those who say that the only acceptable evidence is purely empirical, based on what we can observe and analyze.

Just apply the scientific method to all that we see, and to our very existence. According to science, we came from random explosions in an expanding universe that somehow interacted to synthesize amino proteins which came together to form DNA. It’s all explainable using quantum physics and scientific analysis. You just have to allow enough time for that random process to work and evolve. (I mean, lots and LOTS of time… eons and eons of it, during none of which could we actually use the scientific method to observe.)

amazed

Amazed or Not?

But on the other hand, believers say God created the universe with a design and a plan. It was also not an observable event, but it makes more logical sense to me that a rational designer created the universe with an observable design…

On the one hand, you can try to talk to God, but you’ll receive no direct answer, and hear no vocal response. But on the other hand, people speak and listen to God with surety every day.

On the one hand, we live in a world where there is cause and effect, and the things that happen can all be explained; on the other hand, people see the hand of God at work. And on that one hand, technology is altering the way we get information, and people are living in tweets and sound bites, gravitating away from reflection and contemplation. Culture resides in the here and now, not the dusty past… But on the other hand, God revealed himself through the Word, and put his wisdom and his story into a book that has to be explored and meditated upon.

Seems kinda backward of God, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t he have waited to come when He could have made the news? Wouldn’t technology have provided a better communications base than the Bible? The intellectuals of this world shoot holes in faith, and many people could say they have not really seen God. Yet Habakkuk claims that God will do something utterly amazing, which “you would not believe, even if you were told.”

“I Wouldn’t Believe it if You Told Me”

You know what? Habakkuk’s prophecy came true. God did just that. He sent his Son to earth as a fragile infant. Jesus of Nazareth said things no one had ever said, and lived as no one else had ever lived. His love and humility astounded his followers and confounded the wise. He went to the cross, in the utterly amazing story of redemption. Habakkuk was right. God did something “in your days” that no one saw coming, even though they had been told about it… It changed the nations, reshaped history, and fulfilled prophecy from thousands of years before.

God not only made everything, but God showed up. He gave us his Word, and He gave us his Son. You’ve now been told; whether you believe it or not, and whether you choose to be amazed by it is totally up to you. (By the way, if you believe it, make sure you tell somebody else about it today! They might be amazed, too!)

The Amazing God

Habakkuk said that God would do some things among the nations
Which would be quite historical, and cause some big sensations.
He said that folks would look upon God’s work and be amazed,
Yet there some who still observe and really are not fazed.
They say that God is not at work, and they can’t really see
That God has ever been at work to alter history…

They might just note that calendars are dated from the birth
Of a baby from Judea who changed everything on earth.
Read his teaching, analyze his life, and then observe
That he came not to rule the world, but to ransom it, and serve.
Habakkuk said we’d be amazed at all that God could do:
Who knew that in a baby, his prediction would come true?
I’ve been amazed by Jesus; tell me, scientist, have you?

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

Destruction Draws Us Inevitably Like Moths to a Flame

The Minor prophets preached about gloom and doom., reminding their audiences that people who worshipped idols and thumbed their noses at God were headed for trouble of the worst kind. If you read their warnings, it seems like we humans can’t avoid the destruction God’s holy wrath will bring.

Is God just really mean, or that sin is just really deadly? The prophets provide certain generations warnings about the cycle of sin and destruction. But if you consider the number of messages they preached, it makes you realize that perhaps their warnings are for ALL generations. Sin is deadly. It always brings destruction. As we go through life doing what we want, we keep giving in to temptation, being drawn into sin like a moth to a flame…

destruction moths

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…” (Nahum 1:7, NIV) Nahum is mainly full of dire predictions about Nineveh’s coming destruction. Remember the story of Jonah, and how he didn’t want to preach to Nineveh, and got bent out of shape when they were spared from Judgement? Well, apparently the sweeping repentance that happened as a result of Jonah’s preaching there (Jonah 3:10) didn’t last forever.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Jonah went to Nineveh around 760 BC, and 100 years later they were back to their adulterous, idolatrous, wicked ways. (Nahum calls her a wanton, lustful harlot, and decries her carved images and temple idols; they have forgotten their sackcloth and ashes, and fallen back into the corrupt pagan practices that had been their downfall just two generations ago…). Apparently the Lord still wanted people to follow him, not just to escape judgement but to find fulfillment.

Nineveh was spared once before, but returned to sin like a moth to the flame. They probably didn’t want to at first, but they just couldn’t help themselves. Even though Nahum says “the Lord is slow to anger” in 1:3, He had finally reached the end of His patience with this cruel pagan city, and Nahum says His justice was going to fall upon them like a consuming fire (3:15) or an overflowing flood. (1:8)

And yet, in the midst of this ultimate prediction of destruction, there is a reminder that the Lord “cares for those who trust in him”. There is an affirmation that God is good. And there is the promise that he is a refuge in times of trouble. Nahum is preaching about the coming destruction, and within his sermon there is also the promise of refuge to “those who trust in him”.

The Equation That Never Changes

I get the feeling that even now at the eleventh hour, even as the wheels of justice are being set in motion to grind Nineveh to dust, there is an extended offer of hope. God is amazingly consistent like that, and there is a simple equation that holds true about God’s character that never changes: When we turn arrogance towards the Lord, we will always encounter a righteous judge; when we turn repentance towards the Lord, we will always find a comforting refuge. Nahum’s prediction of judgment is inexorable, but so is God’s promise of goodness and grace. The variable in this equation is us.

The Variable in the Equation

Is it just that God is cruel, and loves to hate the sinner?
Does he hate mankind so much that He must be the winner?
Or could it be that God is loving, offering us His grace,
And calling us to refuge from the midst of our disgrace?
Sin is deadly, offering sinners nothing but destruction,
And yet God offers grace if we will follow His instruction.

Here’s a simple way to see if you are on His path,
And this is always true no matter how you do the math:
If we choose rebellious sin, then judgment’s sure to fall;
But if we all repent, then God will offer grace to all.
The God of love and light cannot abide malignant sin,
But offers you His grace and love, no matter where you’ve been.
Question God if you desire: debate, discuss, and cuss–
But He remains the same. The only variable is US.

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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Micah Learned a Secret in the Dark. So Can You

Most folks would say that we are living in dark times, and if you just listen to the nightly news you will be moved to feel both uncertainty and anxiety. The stress of dealing with a pandemic affects not only how we live but how we react to how we have to live. Depression casts its shadow over normally happy lives, and shadows prevail over sunshine… If you are living in darkness, Micah says you have an advocate, and that you will again be able to rise and shine. Here’s the secret:

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.” (Micah 7:7-9, NIV).

Micah

Micah predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, at a time when Jerusalem seemed to have recovered some of their spiritual equilibrium under Hezekiah. After years of darkness under evil rulers, it seemed that God’s glory over Israel was about to shine again in perpetuity. Yet Micah preached that the opposite was going to happen. I’m sure he was criticized and ridiculed, and there were times when it must have seemed as if he was swimming against the current, standing alone in a culture that felt somewhat holy and successful.

How Should We Deal With Difficulty and Stress?

He says two things that are instructive. 1) He says “I wait for God my Savior”. How many times do I get impatient with God? We are the instant gratification generation, and often try to move far ahead of God’s timing or our own preparedness. Abram waited 25 YEARS for God to fulfill his promise of a son. Moses spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court, and then 40 YEARS as a fugitive before God called him to lead Israel out of slavery. After his conversion, Paul spent at least three YEARS in the desert being prepared for his mission. Over and over the Bible illustrates that God’s timing often requires patience.

2) Micah sees God’s judgment as one hundred per cent just; he acknowledges God not only as his righteous judge, but also as his advocate. He places his fate entirely in God’s hands. Micah allows the light of God to shine into the darkest parts of his heart. It stands to reason that Micah has to tell his defense attorney everything, and he has to confess to all of his crimes. That might be especially awkward when your advocate is also your judge. In God’s courtroom, however, it is the best move to make.

Good for You

Confession is not only good for the soul, it is the key to staying right with God. David committed terrible sins, but stayed intimate with God because of his contrite confession. Micah also has confidence that he has an advocate in God because he confessed.

In the New Testament words of John, it is the same with us: “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And, “if any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the righteous.” (1 John 1:9, 2:1). You want to hope in the Lord? Confess. Would you like to rise after you have fallen? Confess. Live in the light? Confess. Receive defense from the best advocate ever? You got it. Take a minute this morning to confess humbly before your God. Then watch. Hope. Rise. Shine!

Micah’s Advocate

Micah lived in misery, and sat in darkest night,
Preaching to his enemies without a hope in sight!
And yet, he said with confidence, "The Lord will be my light!"
Micah stood before the court whose judgment he must face,
And yet he said "Lord I confess. Please, Father, plead my case."
So, when you stand before the bench, like me and all the rest,
Make sure you have an advocate who's better than the best;
In this case you will have the greatest chance if you've confessed,
So, tell the Father you've transgressed and get it off your chest! 
Even though there may be darkness covering your eyes,
Confess, and let God plead your case, and see His light, and Rise.

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 Strange Case of the Whining Prophet

Remember being in VBS and listening to the story about Jonah and the whale? (Well the Bible says “great fish”, but the key thing is he was swallowed. That DOES recall a Seinfeld episode where George pretended to be a marine biologist and said he walked right up to the big fish! Jerry corrected him: “Mammal.” George, engrossed in telling his story about being a marine biologist: “Whatever.”) You probably recall that Jonah was ultimately successful in preaching mission to Nineveh, but then he kinda spoiled the whole love thing by whining about it to God. There are several lessons about whining imbedded in Jonah, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t covered extensively in Vacation Bible School…

More Than a VBS Story

At any rate, Jonah is one of the more famous prophets, probably because of the whole “made for VBS” fish story, but his story is really deeper than just being eaten by a whale. He really should be famous because ran from and disagreed with God’s will, and then couldn’t stop whining about it. Unfortunately, this whole whining thing still pops up in the church from time to time… In Jonah’s case, he was party to a downright miracle, and he was unhappy about it. Is there anything we can learn from him today?

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it… But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 3:10; 4:1-3, NKJV).

whining prophet

The Problem With Jonah

Jonah was not a very cooperative prophet. First, he ran in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. (Thank goodness we’ve never done that!) He only finally went to Nineveh kicking and screaming, objecting to the possibility that God might spare them. (Apparently he knew better than the Lord did, so he was just going to go his own way, thank you. Have you ever run from a ministry opportunity because it didn’t fit in with YOUR plans?) And second, when God spared Nineveh, Jonah went off and pouted. He set a new record for whining among great men of God. Even when good happened, he had the wrong attitude about the right thing.

On one hand, Jonah could be compared to some pastors today: they are motivated by ego more than by God; they have their own agenda, not the Lord’s; and they are driven by culture instead of God’s word. But, wait! If you agreed with the comments about some of those Pastors, then read through Jonah again…BECAUSE:

Looking at this text, Jonah would also fit in well with some of today’s churchgoers: he knows more than the leadership; if he doesn’t like what they are doing he’ll go somewhere else; if the church doesn’t do what they want, then the whining starts: they will go off and sulk; and they’ll gripe and complain every step of the way. (Ha, you were nodding your head when I was talking about preachers, but now you’re saying, “Wait just a dang minute! He’s quit preaching and gone to meddling!”) Sometimes, it’s probably best to 1) listen to God, 2) just roll up our sleeves and be open to the ministry God wants us to do, and 3) serve.

The Whining Prophet

Jonah rebelled. He wasn't quite
Aligned with God: He ran from sight!
So he was caught in a fish's bite
And stayed in its belly a couple of nights.
When Jesus calls, don't be uptight;
Don't worry about who's wrong or right,
Just serve Lord with all your might!
Humility is God's delight:
It doesn't honor Him when we fight.
Remember these words in capital type:
THE HOLY SPIRIT DOESN'T GRIPE!

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