The Shocking Conversation that was Just Full of Surprises

The disciples thought they knew Jesus pretty well, but they sure didn’t see this conversation coming… While walking somewhat uneasily through Samaria, they left Jesus by a well to go find some lunch. When they came back, they were utterly surprised to find him talking to a woman…

There’s Much More to This Story

[Jesus said] “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 KJV)

In this chapter (a great one to read, BTW) John records one of the most fascinating conversations in history. According to all religious and social standards of the day, it never should have happened. On the way from Judea back to Galilee, John says that Jesus went through Samaria. It looks like the logical path on a map, since Samaria lies right between Jerusalem and Galilee, and it may have been that Jesus was in a hurry and just took the most direct route. But most religious Jews would travel far out of their way before going through Samaria.

Breaking Boundaries

Rather than walking straight north, good Jews would go east through Jericho, then over across the Jordan River, north around Samaria, then back over to Galilee–a route that added hours of walking to their journey. They avoided Samaria altogether since it was considered to be a hotbed of heresy, and the Samaritans were considered to be beneath them culturally, socially and spiritually.

When the rulers and upper class Israelites were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 BC, those Jews who were left behind a) were left from the tribes who revolted and pulled away from Judah; and b) intermarried with locals, participating in pagan worship and setting up their own temple on Mt Gerizim. Orthodox Hebrews knew that the ONLY place to worship was Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, and they despised the Samaritans as half-breeds and idolaters.

An upright Hebrew would normally shun a Samaritan; he certainly wouldn’t have a conversation with one. So while it seems like an everyday occurrence, Jesus taking his disciples through Samaria was a big deal. He was going into territory no righteous rabbi would have traversed.

conversation

Breaking Barriers

Then, while his disciples go to find food, Jesus shatters social and religious convention by talking to 1) a woman (talking to a strange woman was against all existing culture and convention for a Rabbi) who

2) is a lowly Samaritan (considered unclean and impure by pious Jews), and who also happens to be considered

3) immoral and socially outcast (She came to the well at midday, rather than in the morning with all the other women; she probably did this because, as a fallen woman, even the OTHER Samaritan women looked down on her).

Any one of these considerations would have made this conversation socially unacceptable or scandalous, and it explains why John said in verse 9 that “the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” and why the disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman” in verse 27 when they returned. When you consider all these factors, it’s clear that Christ’s participation in this conversation broke all kinds of social and religious barriers.

Breaking Ground

The conversation itself is also ground-breaking. He pulls no punches about her life and issues, and yet she never seems to feel judged or abused… And then he tells her that we should worship God in Spirit and in truth. She tries to stir up the argument about where to worship, but Jesus points out that the Father (much like the prodigal’s father, who saw him coming home from a long way off), is SEEKING us to worship him!

How do you think she felt about that? How do YOU feel about it? Do you think the Father would appreciate your worship? Do you worship with your spirit? Enthusiastically, whole-heartedly, deeply? And is there any deception influencing you that could cloud the truth? Any prejudice or assumption or half-truth that keeps you from yielding to the Father? Have your own conversation with Jesus. Maybe it’s time to break whatever conventions are keeping you from being honest with him. Your spirit will be glad you did!

The Scarlet Woman

The disciples never saw it coming. Jesus talked to a scarlet woman
Who happened to be a Samaritan, alone there at the well.
Although she wasn’t Abraham’s daughter,
He boldly asked her for some water! The disciples thought
He shouldn’t ought to talk to her a spell…


But Jesus knew the how’s and why’s, he didn’t believe society’s lies,
And Jesus didn’t marginalize the woman, just because…
He knew about her wasted youth; He sat with her and spoke the truth
But never once was he uncouth as they spoke about who she was.
She heard the things He had to say about his being the only way,
and the woman left redeemed that day! Her neighbors started to buzz!


And you and I are at that well:
we’ve done more things than we like to tell
(We might be headed straight to hell!)
But when we look at Jesus: we see a friend who doesn’t judge,
but sees through all our sin and sludge,
And he gives our hearts a gentle nudge
Towards the faith in Him that frees us.
If you’ll just talk to Jesus, you might find
That He can change your heart, and change your mind…

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

Romantic love: Wow! Why do we Love It? Who is it Meant For?

True Love

Solomon, the King with many wives, apparently knew something about being romantic: “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves–I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves.” (Song of Solomon 3:1-2, NIV)

The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is a beautiful picture of romantic love. It weaves a rich tapestry of infatuation and desire, accented with bold allusions to physical delights as the lovers imagine themselves swept away on flights of fantasy together. “Your love is more delightful than wine…Take me away with you, let us hurry!” (Verses 1:2, 4) “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. (2:4)” The lovers are smitten with one another, and address each other with compliments and longing. They cannot bear to be apart!

Perhaps you have experienced a romance like that, where you were so hungry for contact with your lover that you would say with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, and even after a date where you spent hours with your boo, there would still be late night phone conversations or texts into the wee hours.

The Thrill of Romantic Love

Romantic love is a powerful thing, an emotion that longs for connection and completion. I’m sure you have experienced it sometime, whether it was puppy love or a hot romance. You wanted to share every moment with your beloved, right? So tell me… when was the last time you felt that way about God? When did you long for Him “all night long”? When did you consider Him first and foremost as “the one my heart loves”?

I believe that the Song of Solomon is a picture of how God wants men and women to love each other, yes, but it is also deeper than that. It’s an expression of how we are to love HIM. Our longing for intimacy and connection is a reflection of God’s image and character, and it is why we were made.

romantic buddy

Do you love God? Do you feel romantic about Him? I know you love Him rationally, and feel committed, and read his word, but do you love Him emotionally and passionately? Do you long for Him, search for Him, miss Him when you’re not together, and do you imagine you going with Him to the banquet hall, to His chambers, or frolicking boldly with Him in public? Do you compliment God the way you would compliment a lover? The next time you read the Song of Solomon, imagine that it is speaking not about Solomon and his lover, but about you and God. Insert the two of you (Yes, you and God!) into the hunger, the infatuation, and the desire…

romantic heart

The Way Romance was Meant To Be

Imagine being together with Him, connected and complete, confident that you are beautiful in His eyes. Feel His adoration and delight surrounding you, and give yours unreservedly back to Him. The next time you think “I love God”, take that thought to its romantic and intimate limits. Don’t just love God; Fall In Love with God!

Jars of Clay’s “Love Song for a Savior” says, “He’s more than the laughter, or the stars in the heavens; As close as a heartbeat, or a song on your lips. Someday we’ll trust Him, and learn how to see Him; Someday He’ll call us and we will come running, we’ll fall in His arms, and the tears will fall down and we’ll say, “I want to fall in love with you, I want to fall in love with you.” May you remember being in love with God the very first time; may you fall in love with Him all over again today. And tomorrow.

Love, Me

A Romantic Prayer

Sometimes, even words upon this page
May be unwrought, and dissipate with age,
As Time undoes their meaning and their passion,
Consigning them to but a passing fashion…
Sometimes, love expressed begins to fade
in Time’s inexorable, crushing promenade
Of Best Intentions strides and walks away,
Stealing what those words once had to say.
Sometimes, even though they’re really pure,
The words can lose their zest as they mature,
Or other things move in, crowd out, replace
the passion with the normal, commonplace…

Once I fell in love with you, my Lord;
I thrilled to walk with you and read Your Word!
Help me, Father, never to be jaded,
Adoring You with love that’s never faded.
So if my words seem old to You, and tired,
Help me remember how I was inspired,
Pursued and wooed by You; and how desired!
Remind me how my love for you was fired,
And lives within me, burning, unretired…

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 Get a Call From God, Answer the Dang Phone!

A Call for Drastic Change

Have you ever gotten “that call”? The one which required an answer from you that could change your whole future? I once received a phone call about a job offer in Chicago, which I decided not to take. Moving to Chicago from Texas would have been a major change that affected my entire family. I often thought, in later years, that the simple yes or no answer literally affected everything about where our family’s life journey would take us.

Perhaps Abraham felt the same way: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should receive after for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Hebrews 11:8 KJV)

call from God

Falling Dominoes

I wonder if Abram had ever really dreamed of leaving Ur? He was a family man who may have had roots and obligations in his community. As a nomadic herdsman, he may not have had a big house or deep community connections, but answering God’s call represented a big change for him. Even if you only have a few possessions, we all know it’s a pain in the neck to move. And did Abram really WANT to move? Was God’s call the fulfillment of his dreams, or an interruption to his status quo? I wonder what the people in his household thought, and whether anybody complained. Were all of them as sold on God’s call as Abram was?

Genesis 12:5 says “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan.” It doesn’t say whether they were enthusiastic or happy about it. But they all answered the call and went with Abram to an unknown promised land. Abram was seventy-five years old and he received a call from God, and he believed it was legitimate enough to bet the house on it.

Faith Can Be Reliable Even If It’s Blind

There are a couple of things about Abram’s call and response that stand out to me. The well-spring of faith is not in being successful, or even in knowing the direction; it is in hearing the call, and knowing who is calling. Since your faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed, it really helps to have faith in something or someone who is reliable. You can have all the faith in the world that a chair with two broken legs will hold you up, but when you sit down you will still crash to the floor. Abram put his faith in a reliable God, and we are still reading his story thousands of years later.

Secondly, Abram was obedient, and he followed God without knowing where he would end up. Are you obedient to God? (Which begs the question, are you having enough dialog with Him so that you know what He wants you to do?) Choosing to follow God requires commitment, as Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 16:24: “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Faith is never passive, and it always results in obedience. Abram didn’t say, “I’ll follow God if He gives me a sign, or a clear direction.” He just packed up and set out, not really knowing where he was going. If God had called him to stay right where he was, I am sure he would have done that, too—but He gave up his presumptions and assumptions and did what God wanted him to do.

Answering a Call is More Than Just Answering

There’s a subtle twist to that as well. Have you ever said, “I’m available!”? I’ll do what God wants (as long as it fits my plans, as long as He uses me the way I always hoped He would…) I will follow God’s call (if it involves doing what I want, going somewhere I have always dreamed of going, or using my gifts the way I always wanted…) I will definitely follow God (as long as He keeps me in my comfort zone). God didn’t guarantee that to Abram, and He doesn’t guarantee that to us. But he does guarantee Himself, which ultimately should be a better promise, don’t you think?

The Call

Picture this: from out of the blue,
A call from God just comes to you,
And tells you that it’s time to roam–
To take your family, leave your home,
And everything you’ve ever known,
And move away to somewhere new,
Just because God told you to!
Well, Abraham got up and went–
He took his wife, he took his tent–
Not questioning why he was sent,
Believing that God’s promise would
Result in something very good.
The call, you see, was Abram’s test,
So he left Ur and all the rest:
And somehow all the world was blessed
Because he gave the Lord his best.
So if you get a call from God when you are all alone,
Remember Abraham’s results, and please, pick up the phone!

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

Love and The Deepest Theology: Four Dimensions of God’s Love

If Everybody Knows It, Why Doesn’t Everybody DO it?

If you really want to define love, you can read the verse that everybody knows, John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This verse describes all of the dimensions of love– how high it is, how wide, how deep, and how long.

We talk about our perception of three dimensions around as we look at height, width, depth and length, but we all know there is more to it than that… How tall is beauty? How wide are feelings? Have you ever thought about all of the dimensions of God’s love?

Way back in the day, Job was confronted with them in one of the earliest written parts of the Bible: “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9)

four dimensions of love

During Job’s discourse with the Almighty, God reminds him of the nature of the universe. We have boundaries and limits; God doesn’t. We think in terms of dimensions; God transcends them. It is that way in the physical universe we touch, see, and inhabit, and it is that way in the spiritual dimension that inhabits us.

Deeper and Longer Still

We are made in God’s image. Whatever passions, values, and emotions we experience are reflections of Him–although as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13, we see them incompletely in this world, as though “through a glass, darkly.” In one of his best-known passages, Paul points out that there is a gap between our temporary world and the spiritual one.

In that chapter Paul acknowledges the importance of knowledge and giftedness, and discusses the importance of hope and faith, all of which could be considered as the deep things of God, and reflections of his character. He ends by saying this (v 13): “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The end of theology is not proofs or precepts, and it is not about knowledge or discourse: it is about the way GOD LOVES YOU.

Have you really considered the depth of God’s love for you? Take a moment and reflect upon that. Do you feel loved today? You should. God loves you for who you are, and who you were meant to be. He loves you consistently, relentlessly, passionately, completely—enough to send his own Son to experience death on your behalf. He did it for everyone, and He did it forever. Bask in God’s love today, and remember that it’s higher, deeper, broader, and longer than you can imagine!

Four Dimensions of Love

How big is love? How strong, how tall?
Do we see love as far too small?
Our broken view of broken love
Can’t take the concept far enough—

Considering all that Christ has bought,
Could love be bigger than we thought?
Imagine love, the way you dreamed,
Romance and passion, all redeemed!

See love reflected in God’s face,
And feel it in His warm embrace.
For God so loved us, every one,
He sent His precious, only Son

To come and revolutionize
The depth and width, the lows and highs
Of love—so broken on the street—
In ways so intimate and sweet,
That in Him, we are made complete.

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

Fruit is the External, Visible Result of an Internal, Un-seeable Process

Why Fruit?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25 NASB) What do you know about fruit? The Bible has used it in connection with our spiritual journey since the Garden of Eden.

fruit within

Eve was drawn to it in Genesis 3:6: “the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” She could have eaten ANY fruit but was more tempted by the forbidden fruit. (Does that still happen today?) Eating the irresistible apple (although the Bible never specifies that it was an apple) created cosmic problems for Eve, Adam, and all of us. But, dang, that fruit looked good!

Producing Fruit

Fruit is colorful, refreshing, juicy, and tasty. You watch tiny buds on trees ripen into delicious, succulent fruit. How? It is the external result of an internal process. The plant or tree takes in light and nourishment, and produces the appropriate resulting fruit. From a biological standpoint, a piece of fruit is actually like a lifeboat for seeds. It harbors seeds surrounded by sustenance, so that when it falls to the ground, the seeds have a better chance to grow and flourish. The flesh of the fruit will die to support the new life that can come from the seeds.

Paul says in Galatians that the spiritual life is also characterized by its fruit. There is an external result of an internal process. A person’s fruit is evident in his actions and attitudes. If I’m yielded to God’s Spirit then I should be loving, joyous, at peace, patient, kind, good, faithful—exhibiting all of the attributes of the Spirit. But perhaps the easiest litmus test is the inverse of that: if I am selfish, anxious, impatient, rude, harsh, judgmental, then I can be sure I am walking in my own way, ordering my own steps.

Seeds Are For Growth

I have always thought that we were given God’s Spirit as Christians somewhat magically to help us live a sanctified life, and I’ve wondered why God didn’t just take over and magically change my behavior to all those really neat spiritual qualities. I’m often the same carnal guy I would be anyway. How come we as Christians do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit all the time? Here are a couple of thoughts.

Fruit is still an external result of an internal process. Are you getting enough light and nourishment? Have you consciously crucified your fleshly nature today? Our Imposter wants to improve our flesh, have it do some good deeds, and present it as morally sufficient to the world. The Spirit, who wants to replace the flesh, requires the same process as biological fruit. The flesh must die to produce new growth, which is something Jesus spoke about in John 12:24: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Who is Your Fruit Really For?

Jesus says that the fruit from wheat is not merely to be food, but that its seed is produced for a larger purpose. We often think of the fruit of the Spirit as things that make US better, or help OUR behavior. But think about it. Everything on that list is something designed to help SOMEONE ELSE. One of the designed functions of regular fruit is that it provides a basis to nourish the seeds so that they will germinate and grow. Maybe Spiritual gifts are like that, too..

A person who walks by the Spirit will be a blessing to everyone around them. Christians are not given love, joy, peace and patience as a badge of honor for good behavior but as bandage of hope for whoever needs blessing. Nail your selfish flesh to the cross today and be fruitful. Paul says there’s no law against that.

Gifts

The Fruit of the Spirit is from above,
With joy and peace, and patient love.
It’s being good, and controlling your mind,
Staying faithful, and being kind…
The fruits of the Spirit are like precious jewels,
Which, Paul affirms, don’t break any rules.
So walk in the Spirit each step of the way,
Yielding yourself to Him, come what may,
And receive this fruit each and every day:
But it’s only yours to be given away.

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 Bonfire of Vanity: Advice From the Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

Vanity is NOT the End of the Matter

Tom Wolfe (who wrote, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”) understood all about vanity. So too, did an older and somewhat jaded King Solomon. After living a life of wealth and achievement, and after marrying hundreds of wives and keeping dozens of concubines, he wrote this: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV)

The book of Ecclesiastes is the most pessimistic book in the Bible. It was written by King Solomon, who had seen it all and done it all. He experienced all that life had to offer and had grown jaded and a bit cynical. In chapter one he began with “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (verse two) He says “all things are wearisome” in verse eight, “there is nothing new under the sun” in verse nine, and draws this conclusion in verse fourteen: “I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”

vanity Madonna

A Promising Start

Solomon reached these conclusions at the end of a long life during which he had the means (and the power) to do pretty much whatever he wanted. When he was a young man about to assume the throne of Israel, 2 Chronicles 1:7 says that “God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asked God not for wealth or power, but for wisdom; pleased with his choice, God gave him wisdom and all of those other things as well. (Kind of a preview of Matthew 6:33 in real life.) As a result, Solomon lived a long life populated with fame and fortune.

“King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” (1 Kings 10:23-24) The visiting Queen of Sheba told him, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (1 Kings 10:6-8)

Instead of Vanity, Fear…

People magazine or TMZ would have covered the goings-on in Solomon’s court, and I imagine there was no vanity he didn’t have the opportunity to see or do. He built the biggest temple, lived in the most opulent palace, and married the hottest women on the planet. So why is all that important, and what does it have to do with us? I would think that the observations of one of the wisest and most experienced men in all of history would be worth consideration.

After everything he had seen and done, Solomon arrived at the conclusions he listed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, which essentially tells us two important things: 1) Fear and obey God. Solomon tells us that having a healthy respect for your Creator makes sense, no matter how rich and famous you are. He also gives a shout out to obedience, which is always the natural result of respect. It’s not difficult to submit to the authority of someone worthy of respect. Solomon, a wise man, believed it made sense to obey God, which leads to his second point:

Don’t Forget

2) Remember who you are accountable to. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” It’s not about your reputation or your public persona or the few good deeds you’ve done. We are accountable to God for every deed, every thought, and every hidden thing.

One of the wisest and richest kings in history concluded that God’s judgment matters. Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). Paul (Romans 14:12) said that “each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” If Solomon, Jesus and Paul think we should get ready for judgment before God, perhaps it would be a wise thing to do. Are you ready?

Solomon’s Judgment

The wisest and the richest king, who had the best of everything–
The purest gold, the finest wines–a thousand wives and concubines!
He wisely judged the rights and wrongs!
He frolicked in the Song of Songs!
There was no truth he could not teach,
Nor pleasure that he could not reach…
The Queen of Sheba sang his praise,
And stayed with him for many days,
Impressed with Solomon and his ways…
Of all men on the planet he, with all his hospitality
Was foremost of humanity, but out of all he got to see,
The cynical reality was this: that all was vanity.
The king then gave this reprimand:
“Fear God, and keep the Lord’s command,
Since He alone will be the One
To judge the secret things you’ve done!
It’s nothing but insanity
To chase the worldly vanity.
Beware the world’s ingredients;
Fear God, and be obedient.

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

Being Thankful can Run Full Circle: 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. Being thankful for God’s goodness was a regular part of worshipping Him.

thankful

The Bible is full of reasons to be thankful, and David King of Israel 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.

The Holiday that Shouldn’t End

During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we’ve probably taken a break to give thanks, and now 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’m perhaps this year we will tap the brakes on being in crowded stores and fighting other shoppers for parking spaces at 6:00 am…

But TODAY, as we enjoy leftovers, and as homes quiet down from 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 gives us much to be thankful for because it 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.” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father! He actually delights in giving to His children 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

You are Loved. Embrace That, and be Thankful.

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. 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. 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

The Idolatry You Should Forsake: You’re Worshipping the Wrong Things

An Accusation You May not Like

Most of us would scoff at the idea that we would practice idolatry. We are sophisticated church-goers who live in the twenty-first century! And yet most of us engage in it without even feeling guilty about it… “Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly.“ (Ezra 10:1, NIV)

Ezra returned to Israel from exile in Persia to rebuild the temple. Upon arriving, he learned that the people who had remained in Israel had taken up with local women and local gods. They were bowing down to little idols and figurines in supplication and praise. He became utterly convicted because Israel was practicing idolatry and worshipping lesser deities instead of God. In the Jordan area people worshipped the sun, and local gods who were thought to govern fertility or rain.

Idolatry and Desire

Before you smile and say, “How quaint and ignorant”, consider this: Pagan worship was very connected to carnal desires that all men have. (And yes, in the ancient world, temple-goers/worshippers were men. Women mostly stayed at home.) So at the temples or High Places, all kinds of lustful and sensational activities drew the men deeper into “worship”.

Besides sacrifices, temple practices included dancing by temple priestesses and repetitious music which was designed to help men achieve a catatonic state of ecstasy; there were also stimulants and temple prostitutes to add to the local worship experience. (In Greece and Rome, men consorted with young boys and frolicked in bath houses.) Understand this: When a man said, “Honey, I’m going to worship at the temple”, he had more than prayer on his mind…

In our modern world, we may feel a little smug because we don’t bow down to little statues, but trust me—we practice idolatry pretty much every day when we put any other thing or desire in front of our love for God. We love our stuff. We covet. Our motives can be selfish. Be honest now, does anything ever get between you and God? Ever have ANY desires that you want more than Him? Any things you want to do more than you want to worship God? Yep, those things aren’t little statues, but they ARE idols. So, take a little inventory. What do you worship? (Hmm, a question much like, “What’s in your wallet?”)

idolatry

Something to Cry About

Ezra was so stricken with grief over the danger of sin that he confessed and wept openly before the whole assembly. There are a lot of verses from the Bible that we use to express optimism and joy. We rejoice in our salvation. We know that Jesus came that our joy might be full. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. But when is the last time that you went to church and had a good cry, and wept openly in front of God and everybody?

Now, I know we feel that we can cry out to God when misfortune strikes, when life seems unfair, or when we are hurting over something that has happened to us or someone we love…That is an appropriate time to cry, but that is not the kind of crying Ezra is talking about here: When was the last time you wept in a worship service because of something YOU have done (or haven’t done) before God? When were you inconsolable in worship, not because of some bad circumstance, but because you realized the magnitude of both YOUR offense to God and the price He paid for your redemption?

Where Do You Spend Time in Worship?

I think our worship today often falls short of what it could be in terms of being transparent and repentant before the Lord, particularly in churches where expression is frowned upon, and God’s Spirit is limited to what time the local NFL game starts. Perhaps that’s because many of us are only partly committed to worship, and EACH OF US falls short of being truly repentant and vulnerable when we go to church.

Could it be that we worship our own sense of decorum more than we worship the Lord? Do we worship appearances more than transformation? James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

True Worship = True Emotion

Ezra led the people of Israel by confessing, weeping, and bowing down before everyone in the house of God. The large assembly that gathered around him expressed their fellowship by weeping bitterly alongside him, by sharing his conviction over how he had fallen short of true commitment to the Lord, and being repentant over his sin. When is the last time you wept bitterly over your sin? When was the last time the whole church bowed before God in genuine emotion to confess and express true repentance?

Here’s the problem: I’m pretty sure that I’m not ready to go blurt out my sins in front of everyone at church. And I’m pretty sure most of you aren’t ready to hear me do that, either. But perhaps I can take some steps in that direction by being more honest in my confession before God, and a little more distraught about the idolatry in my life. I bet if enough of us did that BEFORE church, we’d have a different experience when we got there.

No Shame in His Game

Ezra bowed, and prayed and cried with love that couldn’t be denied–
No pretense here, no foolish pride, just honesty from deep inside.
And all the people wept and prayed, forsook the idols they had made,
Left the coolness they displayed, and bowed in grief and awe, afraid…
Israel joined–no one declined–to leave their idols far behind.
What about YOUR secret mind? If you looked closely, could you find
Some altars of idolatry that none suspect, and none can see?
Confess and weep. Repent and see that if you pray transparently,
Your worship wouldn’t be so lame, your church would never be the same
And You won’t check the time in worship, waiting for the Cowboys game…

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 Condemn or Not: the Trial with a Shocking Conclusion

A Chance to Condemn

“And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.” (John 8:10-11 ASV) The woman caught in adultery is one of the more dramatic scenes in the Bible, and has a number of interesting elements to it.

First of all, there’s a note in most Bibles that says 7:53-8:11 were not included in the earliest manuscripts of John’s Gospel. Scholars feel that it was probably inserted after the original version was written, because Jesus was not at the meeting of the Pharisees, and the transition “Then each man went to his own home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” seems a little abrupt. They also place it logically after Luke 21:37-38, which states that Jesus stayed on the Mount of Olives and came early each day to teach in the temple. In any case, the story was included because it was undoubtedly true to circumstances and to Jesus’ teaching and character.

The Trap of Condemnation

The Pharisees were trying to place Jesus onto the horns of a dilemma, asking him to render judgment that would be wrong no matter what he chose. In the first place, it wasn’t a fair trial, and it didn’t follow the law. Deuteronomy 22:22 said, “If a man is caught sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.” The Pharisees didn’t bring the man involved, only the woman. If Jesus permitted them to stone the woman, he would have broken the law. He would also have offended the Romans because under Roman law the Jews did not have the right to exercise capital punishment.

condemn not

The Doodle that was More Than a Doodle

It’s interesting to note that in verse six, Jesus “bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” I have heard entire sermons speculating about what he might have written there. Maybe he wrote several of the commandments, and perhaps they were pointedly the ones broken most often by the men carrying the stones. Perhaps he wrote the Shema, Israel’s foundational verse to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He could have simply written a list of sins that related personally to each of the would-be judges, which they would recognize as their own…

Some speculate that perhaps he wrote the names of some of the men themselves, surprising them and convicting them as they looked on, wondering how Jesus knew so much. Whatever he wrote there in the dust, it must have provided dramatic counterpoint to the motives and intents of the self-righteous hypocrites. The accusers stood there, stones in hand, ready to execute judgment and condemnation. Somehow, with a few words written in the dust, Jesus stopped them in their tracks. We don’t know exactly what he wrote, but it was effective.

The Real Question

This story provides another instance of Jesus declining the chance to condemn, although the language is interesting, because he asks, “Did no man condemn you?” And she answers, “No man, Lord.” The subtlety of his inference is both loving and direct, because he does not exclude the real possibility that God would not approve of her activity…and his actions challenged her to reconsider everything she thought about God, accountability and judgment.

Your Chance to Condemn

He encouraged the woman to change her ways and leave her life of sin, but he did not exercise judgment. Christians (followers of Jesus), take note! Imitate. I have always wondered what became of this woman, and how she lived from then on. The power and magnitude of Grace calls us to leave our sinful lives and remember what Jesus did. He didn’t come to condemn, but to save. Jesus doesn’t lower the bar, or make excuses, or spin that it’s ok to sin. He gently but powerfully reminds us that we are called, not to make anyone ELSE holy, but to BE holy. Probably such a full-time job that we’ve very little time left over to accuse anyone else.

The Judge Who Didn’t Condemn

The woman on the street was cast in shame
Because a man had tried to own her.
No one even asked her name,
But they were all prepared to stone her,
Till someone knelt beside her in the dust
And let her know that she was not alone.
He said, “Go ahead and judge her if you must,
But let the perfect man among you cast the stone.”

One by one, the accusers walked away,
But Jesus looked at her; He didn’t budge.
The woman thought she knew what he would say:
Instead, he asked her, “Where are those who judge?”
She looked around and saw no hateful men,
Still trembling from their angry cries of “Whore!”
But he said, “Woman, neither do I condemn,
So you are free to go and sin no more…”

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

Esther’s Impossible Choice: Sometimes You Have to Risk it All

Maybe an “old School” Disney?

The Book of Esther would make a great Disney movie. It has a beautiful woman, a treacherous villain, a kindly uncle, and a happy ending. The story of Esther is an amazing study in courage in the face of deception, treachery, and the twists and turns of political intrigue in a pagan royal court. Esther was placed on the horns of a dilemma, and the fate of every one of her people depended on what she decided to risk.

[Esther’s Uncle Mordecai said:] “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV)

Esther before Xerxes

In the Persian City of Susa, in the court of King Xerxes, a bitter and corrupt man named Haman concocted a plot to destroy the Jewish people. (Anti-Semitism is neither new nor original.) Haman had been promoted in Xerxes’ court and was a very important man. Because of his enormous ego, he ordained that everyone bow to him when he appeared in public. Mordecai, a Jewish gatekeeper, refused to do so because he would only bow to YHWH. Haman overreacted and became a murderous bigot, angry at Mordecai (Esther’s uncle) because he wouldn’t pay homage to Haman.

Bad Man, Bad Plan

So Haman decided to get revenge not just on Mordecai but on all of his relatives, and basically duped the King into signing a death warrant for all of the Jews in Persia. (Have you ever wondered WHY it is the Jews who are so often targeted with genocide throughout history? Could it be the result of spiritual conflict between God’s people and the malevolent power of this world who would seek to destroy them? Just some food for thought…)

Esther

Xerxes signed Haman’s petition under false pretenses and without much thought, not realizing it applied to his newest wife, Esther. Because of her great beauty, she had been chosen out of all the women in the kingdom to be queen of Persia. It was quite a process. After she was chosen in the nation-wide beauty pageant, she was prepared with oils and beauty treatments for TWELVE MONTHS.

During all this time, no one had asked about her religion or family background, and no one in the court knew that she herself was Jewish. Her Uncle Mordecai had advised her not to disclose this information, and so no one in the Royal court realized Haman’s evil plan applied to the beautiful new queen.

The Plot and the Despot

Esther could have stayed incognito and hoped that she would be safe; but she also was in a unique position to help. As a result of these events, a life-changing choice lay before Esther. She could go before the King and expose the plot, but there was a catch: in his court, King Xerxes (like most despotic monarchs) had the right to kill anyone in the court who approached him uninvited. I’m sure that helped him stay on schedule, but it presented a real problem to Esther. Even further, by going forward and identifying with the Jews, she was placing herself voluntarily under Haman’s nefarious edict. Either way, she literally had to risk her own life in order to try to save her people.

Esther risked it all

I’m sure she was tempted to stay silent and hope for the best (something all of us do from time to time). After all, she had some security as a royal wife, and no one really knew that she was a Jew. In Esther 4:14 her uncle Mordecai encouraged her to approach the king. Therefore his counsel was that if she stayed silent, God’s deliverance for his people would still occur; but that perhaps she had been put in a unique position with a singular opportunity to act. He said, “And who knows whether thou art come the the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther’s Question Was Really EVERYONE’S Question

Esther is a great story, and her decision created an amazingly dramatic moment. But stop for a moment and think about that story in terms of your own life. Have you been brought to wherever you are for a purpose? Is there something you can do that no one else can do? Haven’t all of us been brought to moments large and small, with opportunities to risk our own comfort or our pride in return for greater gains? Aren’t all of us asked to die to self so that God’s greater good is realized?

There’s a moment of choice in front of you, maybe even today… you can choose to remain silent and hope for the best, or proclaim your loyalty and allegiance to God. Who knows–perhaps it is YOU who have come to the kingdom for such a time as this! Step. up.

And the Answer Is…

Esther’s Courage

Xerxes ruled with random lust; his court approached with fear.
His whimsy might be cruel or just, and Haman held his ear.
Haman’s hateful, murderous heart was filled with selfish pride,
Which turned against the man who worshipped Yahweh: Mordecai.
Haman lied to Xerxes, and his twisted, evil ruse
Convinced the King to grant the execution of the Jews.
So Mordecai told Esther, then, of Haman’s vile plan,
Since her position in the court might thwart this evil man.
But if she came to the Royal court from the harem, where they kept her,
He might decline to see her with a gesture of his scepter,
And this declining gesture would mean death for good Queen Esther!

How could they escape this bind? How to change the Monarch’s mind?
Approaching him, she just might find that her request would be
declined…
Uncertain now, she wavered as she tried to count the cost.
Mordecai said, “Esther, if you don’t go, you’ll be lost–
God will save us either way, despite the turns and twists:
Who knows if you were put where you are for such a time as this?”
So Esther left the Harem and approached the Royal Hall,
Willing to save her people by being willing to risk it all.

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

The Redeemer Who Could, For the People Who Couldn’t

The Ancient Art of Redemption

In order for someone to be redeemed, they need a redeemer. In ancient times, a military prisoner needed someone to buy them back from slavery. It was such a common occurrence in Biblical days that everyone would have understood it. The story of redemption follows logic and makes perfect sense. Captives need redemption. Yet people today don’t always relate to the fact that mankind needs a redeemer.

Maybe we are just fine without one, but the Bible says this about that: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might be the redeemer of them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 ASV)

You’ve Quit Preaching and Gone to Meddling

Here’s how it relates to us: We were condemned under the law and estranged from God because Adam and Eve questioned God’s plan and chose to follow their own will. No matter how much the Father loved us and wanted our good, He could not tolerate the presence of sin; when mankind became sinful, it separated them from a Holy God.

Under the logic of the law, all men lived under the law’s curse because of Adam and Eve’s choice. In effect, mankind was thrown out of the family because of sin, and could not be allowed back in until the sin problem was taken care of. Our will got us thrown out of HIS will…

No Other Options

So why couldn’t God just snap his fingers and provide restoration? I’m sure He would have if it were that easy, but redemption from sin is apparently a cosmic issue, a life or death matter, and not just anyone could rectify Adam and Eve’s fatal choice. Cosmic, irrevocable death had dire, irreversible consequences. Only a redeemer uniquely positioned to fulfill God’s law on our behalf could change our status.

Unique Qualifications

After The Fall, if there was to be redeemer, he would need to meet some very unique qualifications. Since Adam and Eve accepted the curse, he would need to be descended from them in order to reject it on their behalf. He would have to live a sinless life in a sinful world. Because sin was transmitted in the process of procreation and birth, he had to be born of a virgin and the circumstances of his birth would have to be supernatural. He couldn’t be tainted by the carnal, sinful nature that invariably wanted nothing more than to break the law.

redeemer Jesus

Since the law was broken, he needed to be not only subject to the law but free from its penalty. He would need to suffer death at the hands of the law, since the only sentence for sin is death—but he had to live in such a way that he did not deserve that sentence.

Very Unique Qualifications…

A Redeemer would have to have not only the humility to live under the law, but the authority to countermand it. He would need to represent the Father as the righteous judge, and he would need to be an advocate for those who were standing trial. Such a Redeemer would have to be uniquely qualified to mediate a settlement between Heaven and earth. He had to be connected to Adam as part of the fallen human family. However, he also needed to be intimately connected in the Father’s family, since he was arranging the adoption of those who would be redeemed…

No Man Could Do It

Unfortunately, no man who had ever lived had satisfied the criteria for being a redeemer, so all men who ever lived were affected by the curse of sin. Paul puts it this way (Romans 5:18): “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

The Redeemer had to be a sinless man, a man who satisfied the law, and who was not subject to the penalty for sin. Jesus was that one redeemer, and you can join God’s family, not by being “good enough”, but by being adopted.

When you consider the facts, it’s a logical progression that requires faith to accept; but if you evaluate the Redeemer’s qualifications and decide to accept his payment for your penalty, then there’s Great News! You’re back in the will!

One Consequence, One Redeemer

Mankind exercised his will, and ate an apple, or took a pill,
Or chased a thrill, said “I’m King of the Hill!”,
Ate more than his fill, made another kill,
Or stole from the till–you know the drill–
And ran up one hellacious bill…

The Lord said, “Man, what you’ve done today
Is left the family and gone astray,
And for that sin, you have to pay.”
And mankind said, “There’s just no way”.
So the Lord looked down, and He didn’t think twice,
He sent a redeemer to pay the price.
It couldn’t be just anyone, so He chose to send his only Son,
Uniquely suited to be the one to ensure redemption’s job was done.

The requirements had big shoes to fill,
Like a cross on top of a deadly hill;
But he carried that cross and He paid your bill,
And destroyed the sin that could only kill:
Great News! You’re adopted, and back in the will!

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