In a World Filled With Radical Hate, Perhaps It’s Time For Radical Love

We live in a time of radical conflict. There are currently wars in about 36 countries world-wide, according to Wikipedia. ( Category:Conflicts in 2023 – Wikipedia ) There are civil wars and revolutions. According to an article in The Atlantic, “The Uppsala Conflict Data Program, which has been tracking wars globally since 1945, identified 2022 and 2023 as the most conflictual years in the world since the end of the Cold War.” Men, it seems, have a tendency to fight other men.

Do Opposites Attract? Usually They Fight

We live in a world full of radical opposition. There are polar opposites almost everywhere you turn. It’s not just about conservatives and liberals, there are anarchists, white supremacists, ANTIFA, radical Muslims and other domestic and international groups who advance radical agendas. But the idea of being revolutionary is certainly nothing new. In fact, here’s a quote from someone you may not always think of as revolutionary.

Jesus made this radical statement: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34, NRSV) I’ve always thought this was a statement that gets somewhat overlooked by today’s Christians. It sounds like Jesus is saying we are soldiers entering a battle. I mean, we are supposed to get along with everyone, right? Doesn’t Paul say something in Romans 12 about living peacefully with all men? Wasn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? What does he mean when he says that?

A Radical Choice

Jesus explains in verses 35-39 that even family members will become opposed to each other because of him, and he says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

What a radical thing to say about following him! I think we sometimes forget that Jesus did not call us to merely know what he said, or to listen to sermons and nod in agreement. He challenges us to love him so fiercely that all other relationships pale by comparison. He says that our commitment to Him should actually force us to make choices about what we do, even if it causes division.

radical love

I’m pretty sure that he’s not talking about the kind of division that happens when Christians disagree about the style of music, or about the building fund—those are petty disagreements that happen in Church because people are immature and selfish—but Jesus is saying that following him will force us to make choices about how important he is in our lives. In some cases, those choices will prompt us to move away from both comfortable and toxic relationships.

Just Ask Yourself…

It’s not about division, judgment, or hate– it’s about commitment, unity, and radical love. Christians belong on the front lines of social injustice, embracing decency and dignity. Christians belong in a relentless army of good will that spreads the Gospel of love and forgiveness as counterpoint to constant headlines that focus on division and hate.

Today’s battle over culture and values should challenge us to do more than sit in our comfortable church and nod at what the preacher says. In his book Radical (page 20), David Platt says this: “The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response. In the process of hearing Jesus, you are compelled to take an honest look at your life, your family, and your church, and not just ask, “What is he saying?” but also ask, “What shall I DO?”

So here’s the deal: what have you heard Jesus say? And if you take an honest look at your life, your family, and your church, do you feel pretty good about whether you are following Jesus or not? If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Peter Lord said, “What you really believe shows in your life every day; all the rest is just Christian talk.”

Your relationship with Christ is not what you THINK about what you believe, or even what you SAY about what you believe—it’s what you DO because you believe. Are you loving anyone enough to confront them with the Gospel? Are you loving your enemies so much that it makes them uncomfortable? Whether you know it or not, you are already in a battle. So gird your loins! Quit you like men! Be strong and courageous. Follow Jesus like you really mean it.

Carry the Sword

People call me the Prince of Peace, and gentle Jesus, meek and mild–
But what if I am a force unleashed, a raging river, strong and wild?
What occurs if you follow me, and allow my Spirit to reside?
Submit to my authority, with no place left to run or hide…
Love each other like a brother, follow me with one accord,
And know that I did not bring merely peace: I also brought a sword.
Be militant, therefore, in love: relentless for the world to see
That nothing in this life can stand between you and your love for me.

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 Creator and His Creation: Think About Who GOD is, and Who YOU Are…

We recently bought a car, and it came with a manual from the folks who made it. There are a bunch of electronics and features we wouldn’t even know about if we hadn’t been given the owner’s manual (in both book and digital format, btw). This book from the people who made the car contains almost everything you need to know about your vehicle. Doesn’t it make sense to get information from the designer and creator of your car if you have a question? In the Bible, David says that makes good sense for us to get information from our creator as well: “Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” (Psalms 119:73 NKJV)

David seemed pretty obsessed with God’s commandments in Psalm 119.He rejoiced in them as in great riches (v 14), he meditated on them (v 15), and he took delight in them (v 16). In verse 27-28 he said, “Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, so that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” David found understanding and strength in the Scriptures. Why do you think David was so taken with God’s word? What was it about God’s precepts that made David almost giddy with excitement?

Why the Excitement?

You can certainly reflect on David’s reasons, but here are a couple to consider: 1) He had lived by them and knew they made a difference. David’s life had not always been easy or soft, but it always included meditation and reflection on what God revealed to him. His confidence in God’s commandments came from actual experience, from applying them in the crucible of his life and finding them to be reliable, helpful and sustaining. It made sense for David to recommend them to us because he knew the Creator’s love firsthand. Charles Spurgeon said, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t”.

2) David understood who he was, and he understood who God was. As strong and successful as David became, he never forgot why it made sense to respect God’s authority. David said, “Your hands have made me”. David accepted God’s place in the universe, much like Paul in Romans 9:20: “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Isaiah echoed the same sentiment in Isaiah 64:8: “We are the clay. You are the Potter. We are all the work of your hands.”

creator

More Profound than You Think

Gary Larsen’s humorous view of the Creator doesn’t begin to reflect the complexity of God’s work in and around us. The reason the Bible provides a sound platform for living is because it comes from our Creator. Does anyone know more about how we operate than the one who conceived and formed our DNA? If we are made in His image after all, perhaps His words can give us guidance.

Why should we pay attention to what God says about us? What’s the connection between us and God? It is more profound than the connection a nursing mother has to her baby, more intimate than the strongest human bonds, and more intertwined with our very nature than DNA. As our Creator, God is the originator of human boundaries and potential, the loving Father who invests all of us with eternal possibilities. He is farther beyond us than we can imagine, and closer to us than our next breath. God designed us, created us, and knows each of us more intimately than our own families do, better than we even know ourselves.

When we have a problem with our car, we look in the owner’s manual for help. It provides insight because it is provided by the one who made the car. When we have problems in life, we can also look into the owner’s manual, provided by the one who made us. And doesn’t it make sense that we should pay attention to our Maker? Is there a better place to look than into His book to find insight? Our Creator should have reliable advice for us that actually works in the crucible of events when life happens. If God is NOT our creator, then follow whomever; but if He is, then there’s no one better to pay attention to.

The Creator’s Place

God conceived and his words gave birth,
Creating the cosmos, Heavens and earth!
He reigns over all, and His presence commands
The stars in the sky and the works of His hands;
He’s the creator of every day,
So we should consider that when we pray:
“Lord, You are the Potter, I am the clay;
Help me see the world that way.
In all I think, and say, and do:
Remind me, Lord, to follow YOU.
Whatever may come, or the day may bring,
I am your subject, and you are my King.”

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

“Delight” Is Your ONLY Job Today. You Better Get Started, NOW!

It’s fun to be delighted. However, we don’t often use it in a sentence like this: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” (Psalms 119:92-93 NKJV)

Shining De Light on Delight

What is David talking about here? He is saying that God’s law gives him delight! Delight is defined as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.” I’ve been delighted by gifts, by the giggle of a toddler, or by something enjoyable or amusing, but I don’t recall being giddy about God’s law recently. How about you?

delight

The Nuts and Bolts

In Richard Bach’s book “Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, he tells the story of an automobile mechanic who delivers a message from God. He is followed by thousands because of the words he delivers to them. In his final sermon he asks the people if a man should be willing to suffer in order to fulfill God’s mission.

People respond, “Of course, Master! It should be pleasure to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask for it!” And the people were ready to carry out God’s will for them no matter how much of a burden, and no matter how painful or difficult. Then the preacher threw the crowd an unexpected curveball. “And what would you do, the Master said unto the multitude, if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE‘. What would you do then?” And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillside across the valleys where they stood.” (Illusions, pages 10-11)

The Hardest Command

God’s command was not that his children suffer or be tortured, but that they be happy. The multitude reacted in stunned silence. They had been ready to suffer for God but had not considered being happy for Him. Doesn’t everybody want to be happy? How many people do you know who ARE? Everybody wants to be happy, but who knows HOW to be happy?

What delights you? What REALLY transports you to a state of pleasure or joy? I bet it’s a short list, and I bet for most of us, it’s different than David’s. David found delight in God’s law. It gave his life order, and it sustained him during times of affliction. It was part of his world and part of his walk. From God’s precepts he received pleasure and enjoyment, and he even says, “For by them You have given me life.”

So, Which is It?

As religious but finite beings, we sometimes focus on the QUANTITY of eternal life rather than on the QUALITY of eternal life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) God wants you to experience not just life, but abundant life. He commands you to be happy. Are you?

Everyone I’ve ever known who truly loves God’s word and lives by it displays some degree of selflessness, concern, passion, wisdom, joy and peace… Not a bad set of attributes as human qualities go, and they are things that transcend circumstances. What’s more, the secrets to happiness delivered by God’s word can be applied no matter what is going on.

Think about being delighted today. Imagine that your delight was not dependent on circumstances, but on how you feel about God, and about how engaged you are with His word. Have you ever associated God’s law with pure unadulterated delight? If you fall more deeply in love with God’s words, I think you’ll also fall in love more deeply in love with life; and you will discover more about its QUALITY, even as you look forward with hope to its QUANTITY.

Delightful

God’s word gives life, its burden is light,
helps you do what’s right, and it shines so bright
in the darkest night that it gives you sight
no matter your plight, and it offers delight
that the world tries to match, but just can’t quite.
It may sound trite, but try it! It might ignite
A light that gives you delight that is in-fi-nite!

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

YOU Are an Amazing Image: How Does That Reflect on YOU?

In today’s devotional reflection (see what I did there?) we are thinking not only about the fact that God created us (which we did, yesterday), but about the fact that He created us in HIS image. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

The Creative Distinctive

You (as in all of you, as in mankind) are different than the animals. While we humanize many animals, and we marvel at their ability to mimic us and their instinct to interact with us socially, there is still one major difference between you and the beasts of the field. YOU are created in God’s image. Animals aren’t. So, what’s the big deal about that?

When you think about it, we humans are very image oriented. Primitive man worshipped images to the extent that God forbade such foolishness specifically in the Ten Commandments. We spend a lot of thought and effort building or repairing our SELF image. At work they once gave all of us a copy of Marianne Williamson’s well-known quote about how we view ourselves:

What Were You Created to Do?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Her words nibble around the edges of Genesis 1:27, but in a sense they fall short. They rightly encourage us to believe in ourselves because we are God’s children, but they limit us to the mere human part of our potential.

image reflection

Technically, an image does whatever the original does. It copies the characteristics of the original, and it is an exact reflection, having all of the appearance and likeness of the source. Therefore, as beings created in the image of God, we should reflect His nature, His character, and His characteristics. (Much like a mirror’s image reflects the real thing before it.)

The Godly Distinctive

As beings made in the image of God, we possess some evident characteristics that influence our longings and behavior. We have a love for beauty and an appreciation for creativity. We have a hunger for love and relationship. As humans, we are emotional, passionate beings who understand morality and aspire to wisdom and completion. We have many facets of God’s character reflected in our own.

The Earthly Distinctive

But even though mankind was created in the image of the Father, things have changed. Man fell in sin and became captive to sinful impulses in a fallen world. The fallen world in turn distorts and clouds our understanding of God’s holiness and character. It’s sometimes hard to see God’s image in the actions and behavior of those around us (in fact we are selfish ourselves) and we feel distanced and separated from a Holy God. We all know from experience it is certainly possible to live much of your life without ever really reflecting the God-like qualities that reside in you.

So do some quick evaluation. Since this is about being an IMAGE, take a look at yourself in the mirror. You will see yourself looking back at you, and according to the Bible you are looking at someone made in the image of God.
What are some things about you that make you believe it’s true?
What are some things about you that make you think it’s not?
Don’t worry about your self-image. Enjoy being made in His. Reflect on THAT.

Imagine This

Life is not a practice or a scrimmage;
It’s more than building up a fallen image.
It’s not about what we project,
Or some illusion we protect,
Or our respect or disrespect,
But more about who we reflect!
Of all the animal kingdom, man
Alone of all the species, can
Engage in spirituality, and reflect on immortality
While he practices morality as a part of his reality.

Just go look into the mirror;
Look intently, see it clearer,
Reflection of the Trinity that stretches to infinity,
Defined by what the Bible stated
About the way you were created.
Don’t serve the world by playing small,
Or listen to the doubter’s call;
Let passion and His love enthrall,
And reflect the One who made us all.

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

LOTS of Trees in the Garden, But Only ONE Job: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

My friend Charlie Henderson worked for years in our manufacturing facilities, and he is well-acquainted with both machine failure and human error. There are funny memes saying, “You only had ONE Job”, and I know Charlie heard that around the manufacturing plants all the time. One of his favorite sayings is, (especially when we see something that is patently ignorant or incredibly ill-conceived) “What could possibly go wrong??” You may be wondering what Charlie has to do with trees in the Garden, so I’ll try to connect the dots.

A Tale of Two Trees…

“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 NKJV)

Actually, Way MORE than Two

When you first read the account of the fall, it’s easy to miss the significance of the trees. It’s easy to gloss over the ground rules, thinking yeah there was a test, and man failed. There were good trees and bad trees, and man ate from the bad one. But read the verses again. God told Adam, “You can eat of EVERY tree of the garden.”

How many trees do you suppose that covered? How many good trees could there be? I can picture an apple tree (it never says the forbidden fruit was an apple, by the way), pear trees, macadamia trees, peach trees, banana trees, plum trees, and chestnut trees… and oh yeah, there would be fig, grapefruit, mango, cashew, orange, date, olive, cherry, lemon, lime, pecan, avocado, coconut, almond, etc., etc.

And if the trees weren’t sufficient, God also gave man “every herb bearing seed”, so you’d have melons, berries, wheat, sugar cane, corn, you name it. If you allow for milk and eggs (which might be stretching things a bit) you could have peach cobbler with ice cream, pecan pie with whipped cream, chocolate cake with milk, and all kinds of culinary delights. Sure, there would have had to have been some trial and error (since recipes, ovens and refrigerators weren’t created yet) but the list of appetizing sustenance available to Adam and Eve was almost limitless in possibility.

trees to choose

One Tree, Though…

On the other hand, how many trees did God make off-limits? Just ONE. Just the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Do you see the disparity? God permitted far more than He denied. Human nature always wants to build a case based on the one restrictive thing rather than being grateful for the many permissible things in life.

Man could freely eat of many good things, but was forbidden only the… one… tree… (Charlie might ask here, “What could possibly go wrong?”) If God were just a legalist, there would have been many rules to follow and many bad things with consequences. We see that kind of structure later as man struggled in a fallen world, but in the Garden there were LOTS of good choices, and only one illegal choice.

What outcome for man was the Lord trying to suggest? Did he want you and me to live in harmony with him, walking eternally through His creation, or did He want us to die? God stacked the deck. He weighted the scales of justice in man’s favor. If the Garden of Eden tells us anything about God’s character, it is that He loves to bless His children, He provides abundantly, and He prefers grace and security over disobedience and death. All of that is still true.

Some Things Never Change

Unfortunately, what we learn about man’s character is also still true. We are easily bored, prone to dissatisfaction, willful, subject to temptation, and usually disobedient. Like Adam and Eve, we are drawn to eat forbidden fruit while surrounded by a feast, tempted to partake of temporary tidbits while sitting at a table with eternal bread.

Interesting that temporary and tempt both start with the same 4 letters—the tidbits of temptation are always temporary—and trust me, the tidbits always leave a bitter taste. If you want to live a fruitful life, then focus today on all of the many good things God has provided, and walk with Him. There could be some peach cobbler and ice cream ahead.

All those Trees…

Is religion more than just a bunch of do’s and don’ts?
Is God only satisfied with way more wills than won’ts?
Are we just a bunch of fools for following a bunch of rules,
And is religion any more than God in heaven, keeping score?
Consider this: in Eden, for as far as he could see
Adam had the right to eat from every single tree.
There was no fruit or bounty God restricted or kept hidden;
One tree alone from hundreds had the fruit that was forbidden.
And so it is with God, who never wanted to distress us:
He offers countless choices for the ways He wants to bless us!
We can live apart from God, and chase our every whim;
Or we can do the simplest, smartest thing by choosing 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

Forever is a Long, Long Time… How Will You Spend It?

Are things going to last forever? In a world full of nuclear warheads, a Covid pandemic, and wars going on in the Ukraine, Gaza, and about 27 OTHER places in the world, it can be a fearful thing to think about how everything will end someday… Yet, in the midst of a sobering prediction, the Bible says this: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished.” (Isaiah 51:6, NKJV)

There are a couple of ways to view this verse. It certainly refers to the brevity of life, and reminds us that this current version of earth (and the temporal lifespan of all who live upon it) will not last very long in the infinitely grand scheme of things. As James 4:14 says, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.”

How Long IS Eternity, Exactly?

When you compare our time on earth to eternity, there’s no real comparison. The time we will have with our Father will far out-distance our time here. So instead of focusing on how short our finite lives are, it makes more sense to realize how long our infinite lives are. People have tried to acknowledge the pure scale of infinity, but I’m pretty sure we usually fall short of comprehending how long forever is, no matter how expressive we are.

forever

There’s a song Johnny Mathis recorded in 1957 called “The Twelfth of Never” that says, “I’ll love you ’til the poets run out of rhyme. Until the Twelfth of Never—and that’s a long, long time.” Wikipedia says, “The song’s title comes from the popular expression “the 12th of Never”, which is used as the date of a future occurrence that will never come to pass. In the case of the song, “the 12th of Never” is given as the date on which the singer will stop loving his beloved, thus indicating that he will always love her.”

Never certainly is a long, long time. Michael Herr’s prize winning book about Viet Nam, “Dispatches”, uses it another way to describe how a combat veteran might respond to a new officer on the line… Lieutenant: “Sergeant, run over and check out that bunker.” Sergeant, evaluating the order and giving the Lieutenant the thousand-yard stare: “Never happen, Lieutenant.” In that case, never MEANS never…

There Are Two Sides to the Coin…

And I guess if “never” is a final and irrevocable outcome, then that also gives us some scale about how “forever means forever.” God says that’s how long His salvation will last. In a world full of temporary satisfaction and fleeting moments, the eternal surety of God’s unfailing love is an amazing prospect.

Spend a few moments reflecting on how long eternity will be, and what it will be like. I’m sure it will outlast our earthly version of those majestic mountains and out-distance the endlessness of deep space…

Think Longer About Longer

Being in God’s presence will be awesome, exceeding what it’s like seeing the mountains for the first time or hearing an incredible virtuoso perform brilliantly—except that it will be better than that, and it will go on and on without ever being boring or repetitive. We won’t be sitting on clouds playing harps, we will be intimately engaged with the Most High God, unfettered by the earthly limitations that hold us back.

The Bible offers hope that it will continue to be a time of growth, interaction, relationships, and love. Take the best feelings you’ve ever had about being loved, wrap yourself up in them, multiply them by about a billion, and extend that out forever. You’ve taken perhaps your first baby step into heaven.

Michael Martin Murphey’s hit song “What’s Forever For?” has the right idea: “And if love never lasts forever, tell me, what’s forever for?” Isaiah says the earthly heavens will vanish away like smoke, but that the Lord’s salvation is the answer to Michael Martin Murphey’s question: It’s what forever’s for…

Forever

Somewhere, out past the deepest space,
The beginning of the deepest grace
Will cleanse our hearts and dry our tears
With the merest start of a million years.

Sometime, deep in eternity
We will stand in awe as we get to see
The Glory of the Risen Lord:
And we won’t get tired, and we won’t be bored!

There will be more than streets of gold,
With an endless love that will not grow cold,
And infinite learning that inspires
The choruses of the heavenly choirs…

Heaven will offer us endless days
To walk with God, to learn His ways,
To find a surprise behind every door,
Always growing, learning more
Of what Our Father has in store:
I think that’s what forever’s for!

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

Good Can Be the Enemy of Great: The Man Who Liked His Stuff

A Hard Choice

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21, NIV)

good vs great

Common Observations

There are several subtle things about Mark’s portrayal of this man’s encounter with Jesus that make it my favorite. Each of the three synoptic gospels offers the same story but include slightly different details. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, which means they were “seen with the same eyes”). Scholars agree that they used common source material, or were perhaps aware of whichever gospel was written first (most think it was probably Mark) and borrowed from it to reach their own intended audience.

In this story, all agree that this good man had great wealth. He approached Jesus sincerely asking about what he needed to inherit eternal life, and yet he went away disappointed. Matthew 19:20 notes that the man was young; Luke 18:18 identifies him as a ruler. Only by combining these details are we informed that this is the story of “the rich young ruler,” perhaps one of the best known stories about Jesus during his ministry.

The Details That Tell the Story

A few observations taken from Mark’s account: 1) The man ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees. There was a sense of urgency about his quest, and he exhibited humility in front of Jesus. Is there anything in your life that should prompt the same type of approach? Should you have a sense of urgency about taking a question to the Master, or hearing his response? Should you humble yourself before him?

2) He called Jesus good, and Jesus challenged him to evaluate where goodness came from, reminding him that God alone is good and that accepting his compliment was tantamount to accepting equal status with the Almighty. All goodness springs from the character of God, and while Jesus did not deny the truth of the man’s declaration, he did point out exactly WHY he could be considered good.

Horizontal Versus Vertical

3) Jesus lists the “horizontal” commandments—the ones dealing with other men—and omits ONE. It’s interesting, because the one he omits is “Thou shalt not covet”, which happens to be precisely where this man’s heart issue lies. When the man answers, he is portrayed as honest and sincere, but perhaps he noticed what Christ omitted and could see what was coming next… It is said that good is the worst enemy of best. It is when we can justify settling for what we already have that we lose motivation to do better. Do we sometimes settle for how things are when greater possibilities are just beyond us? This young man had a chance to be great. He settled for possessions instead.

This man appeared to be successful, and his actions seem to indicate a spiritual hunger, an attempt to please God. But appearances can be deceiving, and he had a flaw that was about to be recorded for all time. Before you feel too smug about this ruler’s weakness, what commandment do you think Jesus might have omitted if he was talking to YOU?

Would it have been coveting, or murder, or adultery, or lying, or committing fraud, or disrespecting your parents? No matter how moral we act, and no matter how good we have been, there is always a place or two where we are vulnerable. There are always a couple of secret sins we are willing to put ahead of God on our priority list. What is your weakness? What do you love more than God?

That Look

4) “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus didn’t look at him in judgment, and he didn’t look down his nose at him in self-righteous condemnation, but he offered him a heartfelt invitation in sincere love. That’s a telling part of the story because it applied to Jesus then, and it applies to him today. In the midst of our sin, Jesus looks at us exactly the same way.

Wealth Versus Wealth

5) When Jesus invited the man to follow him, Mark says, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” If you are an American Christian, you are at least close to being in the same position. Compared to the rest of the world, you have great wealth. According to the New York Times, “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants.” Each of us who is fortunate enough to have the kind of stuff we take for granted in this country should ask ourselves, truly, do I love God more than I love my stuff?

In the rich young ruler’s case, “he went away sad because he had great wealth.” For him, the good life was his primary obstacle to the great life. Don’t be that guy. Think carefully about what you have and what you COULD have; and go away happy instead of sad.

That First Step, Though…

All possessions, all your stuff
Will never ever be enough
To fill the place inside of you
That asks “Oh Lord, what must I do?”
Jesus looks into your eyes,
And pauses before he replies:
“There’s only one thing that you lack,
One thing that you are holding back;
If you will give that thing to me,
My child, then I will set you free.”

You hear the love in Jesus’ voice.
You realize you have a choice
To measure treasure differently–
On earth, or in eternity.
For just a moment, time stands still;
It’s time to exercise your will:
What choices will you make today?
How will you feel when you walk away?
It’s time to speak. What will you say?

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

More Than Being Thankful, Be Thanks Full As Well

Really, EVERY Day is Thanksgiving

There’s a difference between “Thankful” and “Thank-full-ness”… Today is a great day to reflect on what you are thankful for, but it is even more than that.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1 NIV) You’ll notice that this verse from the Psalms is exactly like the verse from Chronicles in yesterday’s devotion. It’s a refrain used often in Hebrew hymns, and it resounded in the Temple when pilgrims gathered at God’s house. Being thankful for God’s goodness was a regular part of worshipping Him.

thankful

The Bible is full of reasons to be thankful, and Israel’s King David expressed it simply but eloquently in his songs of praise to God.  2 Chronicles 5:13 says, “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.”

David used this verse over and over in the Psalms when singing praises, when he was leading worship, and to commemorate important events. (It also appears in Psalm 106, 107, 118, and 136.) Being thankful for God’s goodness and love was a major part of his life, and a major theme in his praises. He probably hummed this song while shaving or when he was walking to work in the morning. If he was a baseball player, it would have been his walk-up song…

The Holiday that Shouldn’t End

During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we’ve probably taken a break to give thanks, and after today, our lives will get back to normal (well, as normal as today’s circumstances allow…). There is shopping to do and there are Christmas decorations to put out. Black Friday has become a wildly commercial U-turn after Thanksgiving, but I’ve noticed that this year, retailers already started Black Friday, and are spreading it out over the whole week… Perhaps we will tap the brakes on being in crowded stores and fighting other shoppers for parking spaces at 6:00 am. Based on the ads I’ve seen, retailers are also changing their approach to Black Friday deals, so maybe there’s more reason to focus on other things (at least on Friday, anyway)…

But TODAY, as we eat turkey and spend time together, and as homes experience the joy and busy-ness of family gatherings, remember this: EVERY day is Thanksgiving Day. Even though no one will probably ask you for another year, “What are you thankful for?” it’s still a good question to ask. (Much better than “what’s in your wallet?”—don’t you think?).

Keep Celebrating

Be a little bit thankful every day. God loves to give. He gives us much to be thankful for because generosity emanates from His character. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” So, according to James every good and perfect gift comes from the Father! Did you realize He actually delights in giving to His children even more than we do?

Jesus said in Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Perhaps as you read that, you are thinking about all the gifts you have been given, and you are indeed grateful for all of your blessings.

thankful

A Twist on Being Thankful

If that’s so, then here’s a little twist to think about as you reflect on what you are thankful for: What are other people thankful for about YOU? Are they thankful for your generosity, your patience, or your joy? Have you given someone ELSE a reason to give thanks this week? Be not only thankful; be thanked-full as well. Happy thankfulness-giving, everybody!

Thankfulness is Not Just Something You Have

One special day each year we pause and offer up our thanks
For all the blessings that we have, both in and out of banks.
We’re thankful for the blessings and the love that we’ve received,
And grateful for the grace bestowed on all who have believed.
And while your saying ‘thank you’ is the proper thing to do,
I wonder, is there someone saying, “Thank You, God!” for 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

Here’s the Way to Start Thanksgiving

Why Give Thanks?

In Hebrew worship services around and before the time of Christ, people sang a common refrain to verses of some hymns: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Who do you think this verse is talking about? And who is it talking to? Generally, supplicants sang it in worship, folks who wanted to feel the love of God. Someone like YOU. It offered contentment, hope and perspective about life, love, and our place in the world: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV)

In the New Testament, Paul extends this thought in his love letter to Philippi. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

A Path To Peace

These verses connect the dots from being loved to thanksgiving to peace, and they inspire some observations. I’m sure you will find your own, but here are three things that jumped out to me:

1) Our love, and our ability to be loving can ebb and flow with the hustle and bustle of holidays and family gatherings, God’s love endures. Forever. That means it’s not just a quantity of time, but it’s a QUALITY of love. It endures NO MATTER WHAT. (And that’s no matter how crazy things get, but also no matter how bad our attitude gets!) So, in a world full of temporary items and elements, it is good to know that some things last forever. God’s love is one of them, and the Bible tells us it is good. When (or if) patience gets thin over the holidays, use His to help you show yours. Because you are loved, remind someone else that they are loved, too. Remember, when the casserole isn’t perfect, or you realize again why you only see those relatives once a year, or patience is thin: YOU ARE LOVED. Bask in that realization, and share that feeling with everyone else!

Proper Perspective

Second (2), being thankful comes from recognizing who God is and what He’s done. Take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life, and wrap thanksgiving around yourself like a comforting blanket.

loved

Remember to give thanks, not for material things but for the things that actually matter. Take a moment each day to reflect on how loved you are, and on what that means in your life. Claim peace even if the turkey turns out dry like the Griswold’s, or gets eaten by Bumpus’s dogs. The Bible says peace does not depend on earthly circumstances. And don’t forget that the family Holiday banquets we have here will pale in comparison to the Wedding Feast we will experience there.

Proper Prayer

Third, I’d never realized that peace not only depended on my prayer and supplication, but my THANKFUL prayer and supplication. If I lack peace, perhaps I forgot to be grateful as I made my supplication. Hmmm… So, it might just be that if I prayed with thanksgiving for EVERY thing first, I’d end up with a different set of requests. And a different level of peace. Happy Peace Giving, everyone! You are loved.

Forever Loved

An attitude of gratitude can calibrate your altitude,
and help improve your aptitude when someone else is crude or rude.
People can be selfish, mean or hateful,
But you can rise above it if you’re grateful!
Praising God whenever as we worship Him together
Will remind us of His Goodness; and His love endures forever.
Held in His heart, with love that does not cease,
We offer Him our Thanks. He gives us Peace.
Will the Lord stop loving us? No, never!
His steadfast love for us endures forever.

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

Perspective: Maybe What We Can’t See Is More Important Than What We CAN See…

We spend most of our lives being concerned with what’s right in front of us. We are wrapped up in temporary pursuits and concerned way more with temporary outcomes than we are with eternal ones. Is it possible our focus is misplaced? Maybe we have the wrong perspective.

The Long or the Short of It

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31, NIV)

perspective sparrow

A Different Look

Have you had a bad week? Are there times when you feel under the pile, alone and neglected, and you’re just not feeling it? There are two things that jump out of this passage, and both of them have to do with perspective. In order to consider that, I think you have to start by putting perspective itself into perspective.

A woman named Edith was at the deathbed of her longtime husband Ralph. He looked up at her and said, “Edith, I remember playing football in high school and breaking my leg. You rushed over from the cheerleading squad and you were right there with me. Then, later in college when I almost flunked out and quit, Edith, you were right there with me. And when we got married and started our own business, and it failed, you were right there with me.

And now here I am in the hospital, with a bad heart, and Edith you are right here with me…” He paused, and his wife lovingly squeezed his hand. Then he finished. “Through all of these things, you have been with me every time. You know, Edith, I’m beginning to think you are BAD LUCK!”

Sometimes in life, how you look at things makes a very big difference in how you FEEL about things.

perspective

Inside, Outside

Jesus says that the way we look at things is wrong. First, he says, we are consumed with the temporary when we are participating in the eternal. Our perspective is wrong. Our spiritual life is far more important (and will last far longer) than our physical life, and yet where is our focus?

Do you spend more time each day taking care of your physical body—cooking and eating, drinking, working out, bathing, deciding what to wear, doing nails, applying makeup, doing hair, shaving, etc.—than you spend on your spiritual self? Change your perspective. Don’t stress over temporary stuff while ignoring the eternal stuff. Having made that point, Jesus then reminds us that we need to shift our perspective on what has value.

It’s in the Little Things

Small things matter. Intimacy matters. Jesus says that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered”, and that God is aware of what is happening in your life down to the smallest details. If that’s true, then we can take heart knowing He cares about us so intimately. Seeing things as God sees them can help change our perspective.

In 1905, Civilla Martin and her husband were visiting a couple named Doolittle in Elmira, New York. These friends were quite cheerful in spite of several afflictions. She says: “One day while we were visiting with the Doolittle’s, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

In the hymn which Civilla Martin wrote that year it says, “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Jesus says that if God is aware of a tiny sparrow’s fall, then take heart: He values YOU, and He is aware of your afflictions as well. And, oh yeah: He not only watches you but He loves you. Put THAT into your perspective and smoke it.

Little Things

When it feels like life is hard no matter what you do,
It may not just be circumstance: it might depend on YOU.
The Lord sees great and mighty things, and I know this is true:
He counts the hairs upon your head. He sees the sparrow, too!
You might think God doesn’t know just what you’re going through,
So change your life by changing to a brand new point of view:
His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches 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

If You Like to Gamble, Try Betting on Sin. It Always Pays Off

Sins are something we hear about from the time we are little. Sure, it starts out as “Make good decisions”, but eventually we know what they are really talking about. There are actions that are forbidden. Some of those actions are big and obvious, and some of them are smaller and don’t seem to mean as much. The truth is, though, everybody commits sins as if there are no consequences.

Perhaps every now and then we should remind ourselves that sins have a price, and they have to be accounted for. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” In the Biblical worldview, sin and death are inextricably linked, and indeed it was sin which brought death into the world. Once mankind was corrupted with sin, then everyone’s physical life became corruptible. Sin resulted in death, and only cleansing from sin’s corruption could change that paradigm. Isaiah offered some hope, however: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…” Isaiah 1:18-19

So, Define Sin

The Bible seems to make a big deal about sin, but the whole idea of sin is not a real popular topic in our culture. If you call something sin, then you are defining what people should or shouldn’t do, and we should all be able to decide that for ourselves, right? If you call me a sinner, then perhaps you are being biased or judgmental. Who are YOU to judge what is wrong or right?

Sin suggests personal failure and individual accountability, but when people do something wrong in our society, there are suddenly a vast array of excuses and explanations about why it’s suddenly ok to break the law or disobey authority. Somebody else did something wrong, so it’s ok for me to do something wrong in return. (Whatever happened to “two wrongs don’t make a right”?)

A Definition that Hits the Bulls-eye

The New Testament uses the Greek word amartano for sin. It means “I miss the mark”. It was a term also used in archery to describe any shot that didn’t hit the bulls-eye. The whole notion of sin’s penalty is not so much connected to every individual act, but rather the impact of falling short, of failing to achieve perfection. If you miss the mark, then you have sinned. Perfection equals sinless-ness. Anything less than perfection equals sin.

In Romans 3:23, Paul says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Since nobody is perfect, then everybody is a sinner. Them. Me. You. We are all subject to sin, and yes, we all lie, cheat, disobey, disrespect, demand our own way, and do wrong. Remember what Paul says about that in the first part of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.”

sins wages

So, what’s the big deal about sin? The presence of sin provides a certain payday, and its ultimate reward is always death. Isaiah uses graphic terms to describe it. He says your sins “are like scarlet”, and “red as crimson”. If you have ever killed a deer or butchered an animal, then these descriptions make sense. The blood price of sin is death, and Isaiah reminds us that sin is an ugly, messy, despicable business. When sin entered our world, death came with it as an inescapable consequence. (See “Adam and Eve”) Don’t forget that not only did Adam and Eve die, but so did the animals that clothed them, the plants that fed them. The bloody business of sin affected everything.

sins pay off

Don’t Take Away My Fun!

Isn’t it interesting that Satan, who wants us all to die, markets sin as fun, when ultimately it’s really just the opposite? He told Eve she could be like God. Satan pitches sin as pleasure and gratification. (Hey, we’re suckers for that!) He tells us today that the Lord is like a cosmic kill-joy who wants to take away all our fun, but if you drill down into the logical extension of sin, perhaps there is a larger picture. WHAT IF sin really brings death? They say that the most common last words in Texas are “Hold my beer and watch this!” That’s probably not true, but consider:

Getting a nice warm buzz on cold beer helps us to party, but when you find yourself crossing out of your lane into that semi, or dying in a hospital bed from cirrhosis of the liver, then sin is not really so fun anymore… Recreational drugs can get you high and provide escape, but when you are fighting addiction and can’t shake it, then sin suddenly stops being fun anymore. The heat of passion might be exciting, but when you find yourself in a broken relationship, or sitting in a clinic about to have an abortion, then sin is really not so fun anymore… Satan’s marketing plan is to sell sin as fun in order to sow tragedy.

The Real Reason God hates Sin

God doesn’t hate sin because it’s fun. He hates sin because it’s deadly. God created us in his image, blessed with His love and possibilities, offering us all the trees in the garden and eternal life in return for obedience—and instead we chose self-will, fun and death. Be grateful today that our Father understands the impact of sin, and provided the answer.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus Christ offered himself in our place as a sinless substitute to pay our sinful death penalty.

Isaiah says that our scarlet sins will be made white as snow, and our crimson stain will be as white as wool. When you read ALL of Romans 6:23, Isaiah’s words make sense: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have ever sinned, be glad. If you have ever sinned, be grateful.

The Wages of Sin

Every man or woman who has ever drawn a breath
Will someday learn that wages of the sin they did are death.
Adam and Eve discovered that when Paradise was Lost,
And made their own decisions without reckoning the cost.
And so it is with all of us. The courtroom we are in
Demands we pay the deadly, scarlet penalty for sin.
But God allowed His Son to pay our penalty in full:
Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool!
Though Satan calls for us to join his deadly, angry horde,
The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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? Why Doesn’t God Give us Indisputable Proof?

The Bible talks a whole lot about FAITH. Have you ever wondered why it places so much weight on having faith? Does that mean we can’t rely on empirical evidence? Does faith have to be blind? The common definition of faith is “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” ( https://www.dictionary.com/browse/faith ) So, why doesn’t the Bible offer us indisputable proof of God’s existence and His plans? The writer of Hebrews goes so far as to say that having a relationship with God depends on that word: “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)

Why Not PROOF?

Faith, when it is active, 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 look into the box and 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 ( https://www.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