Creator: Think About Who God Is, and Who You Are

Owner’s Manual

Do you ever use the owner’s manual in your car? You know, the book from the people who MADE the car? It 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 when 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.

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.

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

Do Sheep Really Need a Shepherd? Yes I’m Talking to YOU

Wandering Sheep

“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6, NKJV) It is well-documented that sheep are not very intelligent animals. Sheep don’t strategize, they don‘t figure things out, and their general approach to life is that they wander around intent on finding things to appease their appetites. I’m sure Isaiah used this comparison because that sounds like a lot of people out there.

sheep follow

Shepherds were needed because sheep couldn’t figure things out for themselves. A shepherd could help them find watering holes and pastures with grass to eat as the seasons changed. Even when sheep have a shepherd who is looking out after their interests, protecting them from danger, leading them to food and water, and generally taking care of them, there are still sheepish tragedies. Sheep will wander off by themselves to suffer dehydration or starvation, or they will fall prey to predators who want to eat them for dinner.

Having a Guide Helps

Without a shepherd though, it gets worse. When sheep achieve freedom from their shepherd, they find themselves in a world full of possibilities. They might stumble into a rich pasture by a nice pond, or they could find themselves alone and friendless in a life and death situation. I wonder, as the sheep bleats plaintively in the desert, or when the lion is closing fast, does the sheep ever think, “Gee, I wish I had stayed with that shepherd. Maybe he knows something I don’t.” By then it is almost always too late.

When you think about it, we are a lot like sheep. We have a shepherd, but we mostly like to venture out on our own. Our tendency, like theirs, is to go astray. We have turned, every one to his own way, and traded the security of the shepherd’s control and limitations for the chance of freedom in a dangerous world. Our curiosity or our appetite will call us away from the shepherd’s advice and limitations to go out on our own.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Doing What You Want

The essence of sin is doing what you want, taking control, being selfish, and turning aside from your created purpose. That’s the also at the heart of Lucifer’s arrogant proclamation in Isaiah 14:12 and following: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’“

Notice how many times he says “I will”. It’s the same thing that all of us do. As the preacher says, “Whenever you sin, there’s always an “I” right in the middle of it. So how about you? Are you astray? Do you have a tendency to leave the Shepherd and go off on your own?

There’s another 14:12 in the Bible that says it this way. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Don’t trade the security of the Shepherd’s limitations for the freedom to wander about in a deadly world. 1 Peter 5:8 warns: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” When the lion finds you alone in the world, I guarantee you will end up feeling sheepish.

The Hungry Lion

Just like sheep, we go astray by turning off to our own way,
And make an independent choice unguided by the Shepherd’s voice.
We choose to go our own direction, wander off from his protection,
Hoping good will come to pass as we go off for greener grass…
But sadly, there’s an evil power who’s seeking those he may devour,
Stalking independent sheep who wander down the pathways steep.

Be vigilant, and be alert: the devil wants to cause you hurt,
To bring you down and bring you in to feel the ravages of sin!
Be watchful, careful, and be wary, lest this deadly adversary
Tempt you to a path that makes a detour into grave mistakes…
So listen to the shepherd’s call: he bore the iniquity of us all,
Extending love to great and small, redeeming sinners from the fall.

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 Fruit Comes From Good Soil; Are YOU Good Soil?

A Parable About Growth

“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the soil on the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” (Luke 8:4-6, 8 NKJV)

People had started paying attention to Jesus, partly because of his teaching, and partly because of the miracles he did. His fame had spread, and Luke says people “had come to him from every city”. Perhaps because he had attracted such a wide audience, Jesus cast a wider net as he taught. He described a sower putting seed on various kinds of soil.

Kindergarten Beans

Have you ever planted something to watch it grow? Planted the seeds of a fruit and watched it produce MORE fruit? Ever gotten excited about seeing something sprout, pushing its way through the topsoil and becoming a plant? I remember planting a bean in a jar in elementary school and being fascinated with watching it change and grow, seeing how the bean was transformed from something dry and seemingly dead into a green new plant. The roots went down, obtaining nutrients from the soil, and the leaves went up, seeking the light!

soil bean

In an agrarian society, this image would have resonated with almost everyone. Even people who weren’t farmers kept gardens and grew fruit trees, herbs or vegetables. Everybody had experience with the varying results that came from sowing seeds, so his listeners were absolutely connected to his premise, and could relate to planting and growing stuff. I would imagine that some people connected the dots, but since there were deeper meanings in this analogy his disciples had to ask, “What does this parable mean?”

soil barren

More Than Just Seeds

Jesus told them that this is more than just a story about a guy planting seeds. It is a Parable about the word of God, which falls onto all kinds of soil, where it will either take root and grow or remain fruitless because the soil will not accept it or support it. He says that WE (the listeners) are the soil, either rejecting or nurturing the word. Reading the parable, a couple of observations come to mind:

1) The transforming power of the word of God can bring new life out of something seemingly dead. But it doesn’t happen from a surface interaction, it requires putting down some roots and reaching up to the light.

2) Even though the Word has transforming power, it only flourishes in the right kind of soil. Jesus said that when cast on the wayside, where traffic and distractions would push it aside, it would be trampled down by the crowd, or eaten up by passing flights of fancy; when cast on rocks, or a hard surface where no roots could develop, it would wither away.

No Depth = No Growth

I’m often amazed at how summarily people reject the Word of God based on assumptions or mere casual surface interaction. They take a small sampling and then say, “The Bible is a myth”, or “It’s a book with some incredible old stories and wise sayings, but it’s out of touch with the modern world”. But they haven’t ever read it, and they have never applied it to their lives. There are indeed people for whom the Word of God has no transforming power, because they do not accept it or support it. They give it a hard surface glance and move on, so that it never takes root and provides miraculous, life-changing growth.

Falling Seed Can Prevent Falling Apart

On the other hand I know people who seek its wisdom and accept its teachings. They are the type of soil that has been broken, and are prepared to accept new life. They will put down roots and reach up to the light. There’s an old saying, “Show me a person whose Bible is falling apart, and I’ll show you a person whose life usually isn’t.” Such people discover that the Bible is connected to History, psychology, current events, and even to the future. They find that the Bible is relevant and profitable, full of insight into human nature as well as sage advice about how to live.

It’s interesting that the same book (the same seed) can have such different outcomes, but as Jesus said, it’s really about the type of soil upon which it falls. The seed offers the same potential for growth wherever it is sown, but Jesus points out that there are very different outcomes from a busy wayside, barren rocks, or freshly broken soil that is prepared to accept and support the Word of God.
So…easy question: What kind of soil are you?

The Sower and the Seed

The sower went to sow some seed on various kinds of ground,
And some fell on the wayside as he scattered it around.
It never flourished or took root, was stepped upon by shoe and boot,
and perished there where it was put, merely trampled underfoot…
Some seeds fell on rocky soil that wasn’t very deep,
So they could not find places that their roots could hold and keep;
Although they sprang right up with pride,
they had no moisture there inside,
And even though they really tried,
they withered on the vine, and died…

But some seeds fell on ground prepared to offer them some growth;
They needed depth and nurture, and this soil provided both.
It weathered storms and heat and cold,
they grew up green and strong and bold,
And they provided fruit like gold, and multiplied a hundredfold.
So when the Sower sows His seed, and offers you his toil,
Make sure you yield a hundredfold because you’re fruitful soil.

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

Dirty feet means Big Debt. How Dirty Are YOUR Feet?

A Story About Debt

Jesus had been invited to a dinner party at the house of Simon the Pharisee. A woman (some say Mary Magdalene) came in and began anointing Jesus’ dirty feet with oil. As the aroma of the oil filled the house, he posed this scenario to Simon and asked him a question.

“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarius, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”

Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. Simon, you did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:41-47 NKJV)

That Uncomfortable Moment at Dinner

As I mentioned, Jesus told this story to Simon, a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner. Luke tells us that it was “a sinful woman” who brought expensive perfume and used it to anoint Jesus’ feet during the meal, weeping as she applied it with her own hair. Such behavior was scandalous in a wealthy Hebrew household. (Not the foot washing itself—what was inappropriate was 1] having a sinful woman in the house and 2] her touching a man’s feet and 3] using her hair to do it!)

In Middle Eastern culture, the head was considered honorable and the feet were dishonorable, so for her to touch Jesus’ feet with her hair was an act that technically made her unclean, and caused her most honorable feature to be abased. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:15, “if a woman has long hair, it is her glory”, and in this case she was willing to use her glory like a dirty rag in order to honor Jesus.

Apparently Simon did not extend even the common courtesy of foot washing to Jesus even though he had him over to dinner. The New Testament mentions foot washing as a form of expected hospitality several times. It was customary for wealthy homeowners to have a servant who washed feet. In poorer homes, there was a bowl of water placed outside to rinse feet on the way in.

Why Foot Washing?

Of course you’ll recall that foot-washing took place at another dinner party, at the Last Supper in the upper room. Jesus himself washed the disciples’ feet, humbling himself as a servant and giving them clean feet. “What a quaint custom!“, you say. “But why all the fuss about feet?” Think about it.

These folks wore sandals, walked on dirty roads, and stepped through the village or town to get to someone’s house. There were animals like goats, horses, and cows who also used these same walkways, and this was also before the days of indoor plumbing. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what people may have stepped in as they walked across town. I was in a couple of refugee villages in Africa, and trust me, when there is no indoor plumbing, you need to be careful where you step.

dirty feet

The washing of feet was not just a quaint custom, it was a housekeeping necessity. It was certainly nice for weary guests, but it made a lot of sense from a sanitary point of view. The sanitary conditions also help explain how significant it was for anyone to wash someone else’s feet. Washing dirty feet was a true act of humility and love.

So, Who’s the Debtor?

In this case, Jesus pointed out that the woman, a sinner who had been forgiven much, could not refrain from honoring him, while Simon, a man who assumed his own righteousness, failed to do so. Have you ever stopped to think about how much sinful debt you accumulated over a lifetime? If every sin cost just a little, have you ever reckoned the size of your debt? Think about that, and celebrate how much you’ve been forgiven today. Trust me, it’s way more than five hundred denarius’ worth.

Feet of Strength

The custom in the Bible was to wash your visitors’ feet;
You never knew what kind of grime they’d pick up in the street!
But it meant more than simply keeping entries clean and neat,
It had to do with honoring the people that you’d meet.

Simon was a Pharisee who asked the Lord to dinner;
A woman anointed Jesus’ feet: this woman was a sinner!
No one would have honored her, or even would have been her;
But Jesus told a story where this sinner was a winner.

He saw how Simon judged her! Jesus knew he was upset;
He told him that the Lord’s great love forgave the greatest debt;
The greatest debtors claimed the greatest Grace that they could get:
Jesus loved them dearly then; I know he loves them yet.

Sometime, in the kingdom after many, many years,
We’ll meet the woman who anointed Jesus with her tears–
Who took her proudest feature and abased it with her touch;
And she will say, “My sins and my eternal debts were such
That I required forgiveness. I have been forgiven much.”

We will smile a bit about the etiquette disaster
She caused by bringing oil and tears to serve her Lord and master;
Jesus said our sin was great, but that his Grace was greater:
My friend, if you believe He’s right, then I will see you later!

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

To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice; But Why is Obedience So Hard?

“If You Will” Is Part of the Covenant

“Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” (Exodus 19:3-6, NKJV)

When God called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of slavery, He gave them the evidence of mighty works that literally changed their world. He covered them with grace and offered them His Presence. The Lord promised that they would be His own special treasure out of all the people on the earth. He delivered them from a lifetime of servitude to an ungodly master, and He formed a covenant with them that would last forever. Sound familiar? He did ask for something in return.

These verses contain an “if-then” clause, making the fulfilment of the promises somewhat conditional. God said, “If you will indeed OBEY My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me…” Apparently God really values obedience.

obey

Oops I Did it Again

I guess it makes sense that we should be obedient, but the Bible (not to mention all of our current headlines) is pretty much the story of how we have NOT obeyed Him, starting with Adam and Eve. Pharaoh had a pretty sweet deal, what with all the slaves to build stuff and serve him. Imagine if he had said, “I think I’ll obey this God of the Israelites. Maybe if I take good care of these chosen people and follow this God, I can get some of this blessing for me.” His deal could have gotten even sweeter.

But “Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should OBEY him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2)

He wasn’t willing to obey the Living God, and he came to an inglorious and ignominious end. (Yeah I know, how often do you get referred to by the word ‘ignominious’? But if you aren’t obedient, it could happen to you…)The practice of animal sacrifice was designed as a graphic reminder of sin’s penalty and it became a focal point for the Hebrew religion, and yet Samuel said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to hearken is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

I’m Sensing a Theme, Here

When rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, the Levites under Nehemiah told all the people why they had come to such a desolate state. Their public ceremony praised God for his deliverance, and included this reminder: “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not OBEY your commands.” (Nehemiah 9:16) The whole Bible is full of examples of disobedience and consequences. “But wait”, you say. “Why are you talking so much about disobedience to me? I’m New Testament. I’m under Grace.”

Well, consider what Jesus said: “Anyone who loves me will OBEY my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) Apparently faith always results in obedience. Do you believe in Jesus? Yes. Well, then, how’s that obedience thing going? Do you realize he even included obedience as an important part of the Great Commission? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

I’m a little worried sometime that we have cheapened Grace by emphasizing how free it is, while failing to remember that our faith should naturally result in our obedience to God. Have you seen God do something in your life? Do you say you have a relationship with Him? Well, just ask yourself one question: Are you obeying God? As you take spiritual inventory every now and then, it’s a great question to ask.

Two Testaments, One Word

Here’s something no one likes to say,
Or much less, DO. And that’s OBEY.
It’s what God told the Israelites
Would please Him more than sacrifice;
It’s just how Pharaoh wouldn’t bend
That brought his ignominious end…
And here’s a different thought, my friend:
Although your Testament is the New,
It also still applies to YOU.
But you protest: “That’s out-of-place!
I’m free! I’m covered up by Grace!
I disobey God now and then,
But really, Jesus is my friend!”

Well here’s what Jesus has to say:
“To obey is love, and to love, obey.
There really is no other way.”
Obey. Today and every day.
Read your Bible. All I’m sayin’
Is just that Jesus wasn’t playin’.

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 a Tip About Betting on Sin: It Always Pays Off

Truth and Consequences

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. “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 sins 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. Here’s 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”)

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. 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. 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

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

How Will It Happen?

Are things going to last forever? In a world full of nuclear warheads and a Covid pandemic, it can be a fearful thing to think about how everything will end someday… “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

Nick at Night: The Most Important Conversation in History

The Pharisee Who Took a Chance

“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1-2, NIV)

It has often been speculated that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because of the risks involved. If the ruling council saw his actions as supporting or endorsing Jesus, it could have had serious consequences for him. Nicodemus could have been thrown off the council, or at the very least endured criticism and persecution.

On the other hand, perhaps he went at the council’s request, and was there as an intermediary to try to get a fix on Jesus and report back. But the fact that he went at night suggests that he was avoiding public scrutiny, and was not there on behalf of the council. If that was the case, then he was risking ostracism, persecution, and the loss of his social (and vocational) position in Jerusalem. Since he took such a huge chance, perhaps he was just an honest man seeking the truth about Jesus.

Nicodemus at night

Most Important Conversation: Really?

Whatever his motives, this talk with Jesus became arguably the most quoted and pivotal conversation in all of human history. It certainly contains perhaps the best-known and most quoted Bible verse. From this brief encounter we get “born again” (v 3); “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit” (v 6); and the fact that the Son of Man must be lifted up (v 15). And from this brief conversation, we get this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (v 16).

If you’ve never read that verse before, read again and think about what it means. It’s the verse everyone knows, and the most quoted verse in the Bible. It rocked Nicodemus’ world, and it changed his life. From the snapshots we get of Nicodemus later in John’s Gospel, a story of transformation emerges. In John 7 he subtly advocated on Jesus’ behalf in the Sanhedrin. He was still on the council, but flies in the face of the overriding hatred of Jesus.

The Rest of the Story

And then this: We see Nicodemus again in the terrible aftermath of the cross, helping to take down Jesus’ body to prepare it for burial (John 20:39). He has stepped out of the shadows of night to identify with him even when it no longer seems to matter. By performing this service, Nicodemus indeed places himself in the crosshairs of the Sanhedrin as a dangerous nonconformist. He risks his life and his reputation to identify with Jesus the crucified “criminal”.

This conversation from John Chapter three obviously meant something to him. The real question is, however: what does it mean to YOU?

Nicodemus

Late at night, he smelled the alleyways;
Secretly, he stalked the truth in silence.
Darkness fouled his progress with its murky haze;
The echoes whispered softly, and with violence…
The Inner Council would not see his coming here
As anything but blatant heresy;
His heart beat faster as he walked along in fear,
A lonely and conflicted Pharisee…

He paused before the doorway, now unsure,
Should this conversation even start?
He wavered now, so righteous, so impure,
Listening to the beating of his heart…
The quiet night created space for him to doubt;
What would happen to him if they knew?
What penalty awaited him if they found out?
Should he be here? Or run? What should he do?
He froze in fear of who he’d meet behind that door;
Confused anxiety almost made him run,
But Nicodemus knocked because he wanted more,
And Jesus smiled and said, “Come in, my son”.

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?

Here’s a little reflection (pardon the pun) about the fact that YOU are created in the IMAGE of GOD. “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

The Best Thing About the Past is That It’s Really a Present

the past on a cycle

If there is anything to be learned from history, it’s that we should learn from the past. George Santayana famously said, “Men who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So history can be educational, but there is another observation about the past that we should remember: we can’t live there…

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Brethren, I do not count myself yet to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ASV)

Forgetting and Reaching

Because he followed a worthy goal, Paul left everything behind in pursuit of his new quest. He changed vocation, friends, goals and his future to follow Jesus. An important part of reaching his prize was being able to let go of the past, which creates an interesting question: If you’re a Christian, do you really forget the things you’ve left behind?

past

There are a couple of ways to look at that. We can easily get trapped by looking back in a somewhat unhealthy way, longing for un-spiritual things, and the fulfillment of old, unsavory appetites. Paul talks about that in Romans 7, where he expresses frustration over the fact that he does things that he doesn’t want to do, motivated by his own sinful nature. The pull of temporary, sinful desire can certainly derail us from loftier goals.

SET A COURSE

Paul challenges us to concentrate on where we are going, not on where we used to be. I think this is what Jesus meant in Luke 9:62, when he said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When you plow a field, you have to stay focused on a point out in front of where you are headed.

past plowing

If you want to plow a straight furrow, you have to focus on what’s ahead; otherwise you will get off-line and your rows will be crooked and useless for cultivation. Jesus knew that it was impossible to be fruitful and productive in the present while gazing back into the past. To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who choose to stay chained to the past will be doomed to repeat it.” Release yourself from old habits and patterns by focusing on new goals and opportunities!

#LIFEGOALS

The other mistake we often make about the past is that we fail to allow ourselves to grow beyond it. We repeat unkind messages to ourselves, we refuse to forgive ourselves, and we limit our potential based on feelings of unworthiness. In the Kingdom of God, those limitations are past. Remember that when God introduced Himself to Moses, he was “I AM”, not “I was”, or “I used to be”.

Do you see yourself the way God sees you? He’s not looking at your mistakes or failures, He sees you the way he intended you to be. He sees you complete and perfect, pristine and pure, and He has already forgotten your flaws and imperfection. Psalm 103:11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I can’t think of any better self-motivational message that we could tell ourselves each day.

If that’s not enough assurance, then read Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God removes our transgressions from us and remembers them no more. If HE is willing to forget your mistakes and move on, then So. Should. You.

Keep Moving

There are a few things from your past– you wish you could delete them,
Mistakes we all should learn from so that we do not repeat them!
Forgetting that which is behind, we strive to run the race
By reaching forth to what’s ahead, empowered now by grace.
We lay aside unneeded weight, and give the race our all,
As we pursue the prize extended by the Savior’s call!
Press onward to the mark, and towards the finish set your eyes;
Don’t look back! Your race is forward, running for the prize.

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

He Was Rich and Became Poor. Seems Easy Until You Think About it

Super Heroes

Super heroes are all the rage today, and they are making somebody rich with the millions of dollars they rake in. But whether they come from Marvel Avengers or Hollywood, they are a poor substitute for the REAL hero who performed the most heroic act of all time. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The complexity of this verse boggles the mind. What sort of riches did Christ possess in his position at the right hand of God? Surely the Lord of Lords and King of Kings had access to wealth we cannot begin to comprehend. According to Colossians 1:17, the entire cosmos is under his authority, and held together by His power. So, it stands to reason that there are aspects of his riches we can’t begin to know.

How Powerful? How Rich?

We do know from John’s remarkable exposition on the Word that Jesus Christ existed in the beginning and was the creative force of God’s personality as the Word who spoke all things into existence. John also said that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) How glorious was that glory? How rich were his riches?

rich but poor

Just try to imagine what sort of splendor the Son left behind to become a mere man…We tend to measure wealth in terms of precious stones or metals, and we are impressed by opulence and ornate works of art. But consider the wealth that the Son of Man left behind for your sake:

1) He was rich in power. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God as the King of Kings and Lord of lords. Yet he left the most powerful position in the universe to be a vulnerable man; and not even a king or ruler, but a tiny, frail, and helpless infant. Instead of taking royal office, he became a servant, and humbled himself to become flesh in every way, even partaking of death on the cross…

Uniquely Rich

2) He was rich in righteousness. Jesus was the Holy One of God, the one who went 40 days toe to toe with the tempter but committed no sin; he alone was worthy to be presented without offense in the Father’s chamber of justice as the only one who could stand before the Father in purity and absorb the penalty for our sin. He didn’t have to, but he did it.

3) Jesus was rich in life. He was the guy people invited to weddings, the teacher everybody gathered to hear. He was the one who said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly“! Jesus was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who created all things and spoke the world into existence.

Jesus was there when time began, when all things were formed and sprang forth from his creative Word. He certainly understood what eternal life meant and how awesome it was, and yet He was willing to give up that life and taste death on our behalf. Through his poverty we became rich. It is amazing to consider how Jesus became poor for our sakes.

Was It Really So Easy?

We tend to think, “Well it was just for a short time, he knew he’d go back to all of that heavenly glory and reign on high”. But I will always maintain that since it had never been done before, the outcome held some manner of risk for the Son. What if the whole universe had unraveled when the Word left His throne and gave up His eternal riches and glory? Whatever the odds, we do know this: he left his perfection in eternity past to enter a world full of sin and death. It’s an amazing sacrifice when you consider what Christ left behind.

A Backward Lens

To me, it becomes even more amazing when you turn the lens around and look at that the other way, from our poverty:
1) We were selfish and grasping at control, and yet we were served by the Lord of lords.

2) We were sinful and condemned, and yet we were made righteous by Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.

3) We were dead in our sins, deceitful and carnal, and yet we were shown the way, the truth, and were given eternal life. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” It’s not just about what Jesus gave UP, but it’s also about what he gave US. He traded his riches for poverty, so that we could leave our poverty for his riches.

The King’s Foolish Trade

There was talk among the angels, all about the king of Kings;
They heard that he was going down to earth, with all that brings…
“Surely he will not give up his place upon the throne!
Surely he will not go down to Satan’s lair, alone!”
Then they watched the Son of God submit to life on earth;
They took the word to Mary, and they watched the virgin birth!
As Jesus grew, they watched him, and the angels held their breath
While the Christ fulfilled his mission in a world of sin and death!
The angels shuddered inwardly to see him leave his glory,
Amazed at what he sacrificed to change creation’s story.

Jesus came to earth to pay our ransom, after which
He took our poverty upon Himself–and made us rich.
Savior, King of Glory, Risen Lord and Great “I AM”!
Who in heaven knew you’d be the sacrificial lamb?
Angels wondered why you left–they knew you could have stayed–
You who took our poverty for your riches in a trade,
Make us ever mindful of the sacrifice you made.

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 Mystery of Gifts: Perhaps the Worst Day Ever Was the Best Gift Ever

Everybody likes getting gifts! (Well, yeah, there are the bunny pajamas in A Christmas Story, but all of us like getting something to unwrap). Jesus had this to say about gifts, so let’s unwrap it together, shall we? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11 ASV)

Think About Gifts…

There are a couple of thoughts that jump out of this verse. First of all, if you are a parent or grandparent (or an Aunt or Uncle, or a passionate pet owner who loves a furry family member!) think about how much you love your child. I mean, stop and think about that. You picture them fondly in your mind. They have traits that endear them to you. You love them!

gifts for dad

Over the course of a lifetime, there are numerous gifts that you give them, whether it’s at Christmas or birthdays, a wedding or graduation, or even tooth fairy money…There are countless small sacrifices you make, from giving them the last piece of cake, to going without that new car or washing machine in order to pay tuition. There is the gift of time, the many gifts of teaching them to eat with a spoon, to use a potty, to ride a bicycle, to read, to imagine, and to dream. Have you ever stopped to think that when God calls us His children, He thinks about us in all of those same ways?

Do Gifts Really Cost God Anything?

Perhaps because we see God as omnipotent and self-sufficient, we tend to minimize the idea that He really actually sacrificed anything to give us gifts. After all, He is GOD. But when you start with the cross, the very real weight of God’s Fatherly love for us should surround us like a hug.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son…” It surely cost the Living God dearly (in ways we cannot fathom) to suffer the separation of sin and condemnation in our place, and to experience the death that was meant for us. Actual death. Real cost. Real Grace.

There are countless other ways that God’s gifts to us must cost Him something. Imagine what it’s like to be omnipotent. Now imagine God giving free will to his wayward kids. He didn’t HAVE to; he could have created beings without choice, without the option to reject you or hate Him. But instead He created potentially disobedient, willful, deceitful, selfish beings who pursue false and lesser gods.

Throughout every generation of men, God has dealt with children who ignore his gifts while they play with the paper and the trash…Has God quit being passionate? Stopped being jealous? Is He sitting in heaven watching us on cosmic TV eating popcorn, the wheels set in motion as He passively watches our rebellion play itself out? NO!!

How Many Thank-You Notes Have YOU Sent?

He is our Father, still loving us, giving us daily gifts of love and wisdom and comfort and possibility. Our Father in heaven is engaged with us DAILY, just as we should be engaged with Him. And His gifts are incessant, immeasurable, constant, and real—even when most of us ignore most of them most of the time.

Oh sure, we acknowledge mountains and flowers and sunsets from time to time, but we take so many things for granted, things like breathing and family and relationships, like our capacity to experience love, and peace and joy… All of those things are gifts that God gives us because He is our Father, gifts that we fail to recognize or appreciate. Over the course of a lifetime, God has given you many gifts. Have you opened them? Do you appreciate them?

gifts from God

More Than a Pair of Socks

Secondly, let’s talk about the nature of God’s gifts a little bit. I have sometimes thought, “Wait a minute! God doesn’t always give me what I ask for! I’m having some rough times, and life isn’t always easy or smooth. Maybe God has withheld his gifts from me.” Then it occurred to me. Perhaps God’s economy in giving gifts is different than mine… Have you ever gotten a firm “no” from God on one of your requests, accepted it, and found that later on something better than your request came along? Or perhaps in the midst of stress or difficulty, you suddenly found a peace about it that helped you cope?

Maybe a trial that stretches me is actually a better gift than something that gives me temporary satisfaction. Maybe difficulties that call me to seek God ARE the gifts that he is actually giving me while I sit around waiting for some reward, or comfort, or beneficial circumstance. Perhaps the ultimate gift, other than grace, is the Father’s comforting presence when bad things happen. Perhaps the bad thing is the good gift. That kinda makes sense. After all, the worst thing ever for God was the best gift ever for me.

Many Gifts, One Conclusion

I look around my world and see
The things which God has given me,
From mountains’ grandeur on the heights,
To stars that bathe the sky at night.
A thousand countless gifts each hour:
The delicate beauty of a flower,
The marvelous canvas of the sun
Who paints the sky when day is done.
The glorious leaves that turn each fall!
Amazing presents, great and small,
So many, I can’t count them all!
Yet God gave me capacity
To see them, or choose not to see…
Just look around. What do you see?
If you can’t feel His presence,
Start by looking at His presents.

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