Jesus Was Criticized for Eating With Sinners. He Still Does

Will the REAL Contestant Please Stand Up?

There was a TV show years ago named “To Tell the Truth” where contestants would try to fool a panel of judges who could ask them questions about who they were. They could have been Jokers, Sinners, Lovers, or Winners, but they were not well-known celebrities. They were usually not someone that everyone in the audience or game show panel would know at a glance. The catch: the contestants came in groups of three, so there were two phony contestants answering as well. They acted as if they were indeed the actual person, and they usually presented themselves pretty well as the “true” contestant.

sinners truth

At the end, the host would say, “Will the REAL _____ please stand up”, and the audience would gasp because they had bet on one of the phony ones based on what they could tell from surface appearances (and the lies with which they presented themselves).

Do Appearances Matter?

The same thing happened in the New Testament: the people who presented themselves as righteous were often sinners. And real sinners were engaged by God Himself. When Jesus called Levi (Matthew) from his tax collecting job, Matthew threw a big party for Jesus and invited all of his tax collector-type friends.

The Pharisees were scandalized because religious men like them did not associate with such low-class people. They questioned Jesus about why on earth he would associate with “tax collectors and sinners”. “And when Jesus heard it, he said unto them, “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 ASV) Apparently, Jesus did not hesitate to attend (and enjoy!) parties with less than respectable participants.

A Common Criticism

When you read through the gospels, this was not an isolated complaint about Jesus and his companions. Matthew and Mark certainly mention it, and John pointed out that the first miracle Jesus did was to turn water into wine at a wedding party. Luke’s Gospel refers to the way the Pharisees criticized Jesus several times: Luke 5:30-32 says, “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

In Luke 7:33-34 [Jesus said] “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

And also, in Luke 15:1-2 it says “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

The Pharisees presented themselves as righteous, but they were sinners. Jesus hung out with sinners, but he was righteous. Will the REAL sinners PLEASE STAND UP? This issue comes up over and over. One of the amazing hallmarks of Jesus’ earthly ministry was who he found acceptable, and who he hung out with. Clearly he was quite comfortable with sinners, and apparently they in return were comfortable with him.

Get Outside the Walls

There are two different aspects of his approach that make me stop and think. First of all, I wonder sometimes if we the church are really emulating Jesus by hanging out primarily with “we, the church”. I have a feeling that our mission calls us far outside the walls of the institutional church and into authentic relationships with people who wouldn’t darken the doors of a church. This is such a challenge because we all tend to gravitate into safer, insulated positions with folks who make us feel comfortable.

It’s funny—the Pharisees talk about sinners like they are another group of which they are not a part. You know, “there’s sinners, but then there’s us.” Sometimes we, the church, give that impression as well. One certain application of these verses is to pray that God would introduce you to someone who is an outsider so that you can love them into the family, and never forget that everyone in the family started out as, and STILL REMAINS a sinner.

Only Sinners Need Apply

That brings me to the second application, which is more personal, and more direct. Jesus said he came “not to call the righteous, but sinners.” We aren’t acceptable to God because we are perfect, He doesn’t call us or use us because we are better than others, and He doesn’t love us only if we perform according to His specifications. He loves us as the rotten selfish disobedient sinners we are, and he calls us in the midst of our sin to become heirs to his glorious kingdom.

If you have ever sinned, if you struggle with sin, and if you think that you are somehow unworthy of God’s love or that you are not good enough to go to church, just remember what Romans 5:8 says: “But God commends His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Italics mine) If you, like me, happen to STILL be a sinner, this is some seriously good news. All of us sinners, whether in the church or outside of it, have a lot in common. We’ve all been invited to a wedding party. We all need to bring along as many other sinners as we can. Who you gonna invite?

A Surprising Guest List

In Bible-quoting contests, all the Pharisees were the winners,
And they looked down on Jesus just because he ate with sinners.
Their grand self-righteousness was earned,
Because of all the church they learned,
And lowly folks (like me) were spurned.
But Jesus talked to sinners, and he didn’t ostracize them,
Or worry when the Pharisees would scorn and criticize him:
He merely said, when “righteous” folk would sneer and ask him why,
“It is the sick for whom I came, and sinners for whom I die.”

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

Foundation: Build Your House Upon the Rock That Won’t Roll

In Mark 6, Jesus’ teaching apparently surprised some of his neighbors. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.(Mark 6:3) There are several things we could focus upon in their questions, but for today’s observation, let’s keep it simple: they knew Jesus as a carpenter, which makes him eminently qualified to teach about foundations.

He That Has Ears…

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his foundation on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)

foundation

When it comes to building, everything in the structure depends on the foundation. Jesus knew about construction because he was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3), so his statement about what makes a house strong is more than just common sense, it is a professional opinion.

It’s What’s Underneath that Counts

If you think about a foundation, it is below the surface, something that you can’t really see, that doesn’t draw your attention. We spend far more time looking at the aesthetic details of a house than at its foundation; but if the foundation fails, all the designer details fail with it. If the house collapses, then the wall texture, the upgraded light fixtures and the crown molding have all become worthless. It’s not only true about construction, it’s also true about life.

Shifting Sands

Whatever philosophy or religion you choose to build upon better have a good foundation. In our world we build upon all sorts of foundations. Some of them are authentic, and some of them are not. Even when they are not true, people still build elaborate structures upon them, and then add many details to draw your eye away from the foundation. The shifting sands of falsehood may hold things up for a while, but Jesus said that such structures will ultimately fall. He also said, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and DOES THEM” is a wise person who has built on the rock.

Bedrock

What do you think of Jesus’ sayings? How many of them are you familiar with? Jesus taught somewhere between 33 and 60 parables, depending on who is keeping score and how you define and count them. They are all in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) although some scholars feel that the Good Shepherd and the Vine are parables in John’s Gospel as well. How many can you name? I know a lot of people who think they know about Jesus but couldn’t name more than four or five of his parables… Have you ever actually read them all? Have you ever thought about practicing what they preach?

I think if you give them careful consideration, you just might find that Jesus 1) was incredibly wise, and 2) offers a solid foundation upon which to build your life. Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said this: ““Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but on what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

History proves that Napoleon was right. Those empires are all gone, swept away by the shifting sands of time and deceit. The Kingdom of God remains, secure upon the rock. Jesus said, (Matt 24:35) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” Did he tell the truth? So far, so good…

Foundation

Napoleon and Caesar both had armies to command,
But history shows their empires were just built on shifting sand.
Jesus recommended that we build upon his sayings,
When storms and wind descend and we can feel our structure swaying.
Know the things that Jesus taught, and what he had to say;
His words will stand forever, though all else will pass away.
Build a firm foundation on His message and His calling:
When trouble comes, His wisdom may just keep your house from falling.

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

Preaching What People Need, Not What They Want

When John the Baptist heralded the coming Messiah, he was preaching a pretty simple sermon. Apparently, it was pretty hard to follow. Even though crowds came out to hear him, there was confrontation with the Pharisees and controversy about his methods.

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” (Matthew 3:1-3 NIV) John the Baptist was a fascinating character. He didn’t approach religion the same way the established teachers did.

preaching

Not Your Average Rabbi

His sermons were direct, convicting, and powerful, full of exhortations and pointed advice about reform. In his preaching he called the religious Pharisees a “brood of vipers”! He challenged his listeners to humble themselves before God, confess their sin, and turn away from it. He didn’t teach in the Temple in Jerusalem, as did the outstanding Rabbis of the day. John lived out in the wilderness, preaching far away from the centers of commerce and power. He dressed in rustic simplicity and ate locusts and wild honey. Farm to table restaurants are in vogue now, but John was more natural than that: he went straight up wilderness to table.

John the Baptist didn’t unpack Scripture, he exhorted people with it. He challenged the status quo. John prophesied. In spite of his apparent eccentricity, large crowds came out to hear him preach and many stepped forward to take the radical step of baptism, signifying that they hungered to commit to the Lord in a new way. When asked who he was, he quoted Isaiah 40:3: “He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

Not What Everyone Expected

Although he was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, his message was simple: “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” John didn’t call for the overthrow of government, no matter how much they hated Roman occupation. He didn’t call for a new building. And he didn’t advocate revolution or reformation to prepare for the Kingdom. He called for personal repentance.

He knew that for the kingdom of heaven to be present anywhere, it first had to be present in the hearts of those who hungered to see it. Is it present in yours? I think we all avoid repentance a little bit, and associate it with wild-eyed Mystics holding signs by the road. But probably, if you’re honest, you are doing something in your life that is taking you down the wrong path–something motivated by pride, or selfishness, or greed…

If John the Baptist showed up in your neighborhood, would you go listen? Would you like his preaching? Would you repent? The very Kingdom of Heaven is waiting! Confess. Turn away from your sin. Perhaps THIS devotional is just getting you ready for your REAL one. IYKYK. Make straight the path of the Lord.

Simple Preaching

Of all the sermons ever preached,
From all the sinners ever reached,
There’s just one message you should hear,
So let me make this crystal clear:
(Jesus preached this, so did Paul;
Stephen, Peter, really all
Great preachers throughout history
Have emphasized this mystery.)
Every preacher God has sent
Said this: Repent. Repent. REPENT!
I’m pretty sure that’s what they meant.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Only Two Things Are Eternal: Do You Know What They Are?

Let’s talk about the Only Two eternal Things on Earth, as we work our way through the four Gospels: Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33, KJV). Over the last month and a half (in case you haven’t noticed), my FB posts worked their way through every book in the Old Testament.

At Easter time we discussed Passion Week, and went through the events leading to the resurrection. Then we launched our journey through the Old Testament all the way through the Minor Prophets. We looked at Malachi, the last OT book; then we discussed a couple of things “between the testaments”. It was interesting stuff, connecting the dots from the Old Testament to the new, and now we find ourselves in the Gospels. Those narratives are unlike any literary genre or approach to writing, and provide most of what we know about Jesus of Nazareth. Yesterday’s post came out of Mark.

Congratulations!

So if you’re keeping up, and you’ve been reading for a while, you have now read through the entire Old Testament. Have you ever read a passage intentionally through every OT book before? Well, if not: Congratulations! You’ve done it! If you want to go back and catch anything you missed, you can always check in to www.bojackson54.com !

So, why should you spend time reading the Bible? There are only two eternal things we encounter in this world. One of them is the people we meet (the souls of men), and the other is the Word of God. We should treasure the people we meet, because as C.S. Lewis said, “You have never met a mere mortal.” And as we approach eternity, we can have hope because of the Word of God! I hope you are impressed with yourself for having read in every Old Testament book! You will carry those words into eternity.

Now we’ll continue to go right on through the entire Bible, covering the rest of the New Testament… Back in the Ten Days of Passion Week we certainly covered some ground in the Four Gospels, and since those books focus on the story and teachings of Jesus, I thought it might be interesting to pause and ask a couple of questions.

Are the Gospels Trustworthy?

First, why trust the Gospels anyway? And second, aren’t they just like any other hero stories from the First Century? Is their content eternal? This little chart offers some detail about the audiences and themes of the Gospels. They have much in common, but tell the story of Jesus to four different groups and in four different ways.

eternal things

Timing of authorship would place them as early as 37 AD, beginning with Mark. It is commonly held that perhaps he used a source material as background, and that Matthew used either Mark’s Gospel or the same source. They were all certainly written within a decade or so of the crucifixion. So how do we know they are reliable, except for the fact that a bunch of religious fanatics think they are true?

Evidence Worth Considering

Here are a couple of quick logical reasons, courtesy of Dr. Jim Wicker of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: First, no Jewish writer would have written about the story of Jesus without utter conviction that it was true. The Messianic titles of Jesus contained in the Gospels were problematic for monotheistic Judaism. If untrue, they would have been considered heresy punishable by death. So, it is way more likely they are true than that some first-century Jewish Christians made them up. They were committing blasphemy to consider them, and the social consequences were severe; yet these Jewish authors used them anyway.

Second, there were a number of intrinsic historical quality controls that existed in days of early church [when the gospels were written]. For instance, eyewitnesses to Jesus were still alive, who could attest to the truthfulness of the Gospels [or expose their lack of truthfulness]. If it was a hoax or a lie, people would have called them out about it. If it were a lie, SOMEONE from the group would have broken and told the Romans it was just a hoax, and they could have ended the fledgling movement before it really got going!

Dumb Disciples?

Also, the fact that embarrassing and even problematic material is included in the Gospels (such as the denseness of the Disciples) helps prove the Gospels are truth rather than fiction. (You’re an author, writing about Jesus; surely you can make him look good without having to put stuff in there that makes you and your friends seem dumb!) Using such an approach runs contrary to the common literary technique of all other previous hero stories or legends. Why show the disciples as dim-witted or slow to grasp who Jesus was if they are the very witnesses you are depending on to carry his message?

The Gospels are really unlike any other literature ever written up to that point in terms of content, approach, and technique. They are incredibly short portraits of Jesus, and yet they provide a richness of detail and contain the passionate ring of truth. That may be why they are still best-sellers today, and why we are still reading Jesus’ eternal words today. Maybe when he said, “My words will never pass away”, he knew what he was talking about… Quick: how many OTHER Middle Eastern rabbis from over 2,000 years ago are you familiar with? Amazing? Yes. Eternal? Yes. Coincidence? No.

Pretty Good News

The Gospels are Love, and about life and death,
They’re about every heartbeat, and every last breath!
The gospels are power and passion combined,
Eternal combustion and love intertwined—
Take a look at the Gospels anew, redefined,
And let them explode in your heart and your mind:
They are news just for YOU, of the very best kind!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

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

The Canon is the official standard list of books that make up the Bible. People ask all the time, “why are those books in the Bible? Why aren’t other books in there as well?” Many who are unfamiliar with Scripture are often critical of it without doing any research about where it came from or how reliable it is. They dismiss the Canon or take shots at it without really knowing why scholars and theologians rely on it so much.

If you are curious about where the best selling book in history came from, here are some facts about the Canon [under] Fire. How did the Bible Get to be the Bible? Read these with an unbiased mind, and decide for yourself if they have merit:

Perspired or Inspired?

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

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

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

canon

How Was the Canon Established?

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

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

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

Old or New?

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

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

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

Why Recognize the Canon?

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

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

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

Don’t Fire the Canon

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Covenants Then and Now: Old-Fashioned, or Cutting Edge?

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

Where are Covenants in the Bible?


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

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

So, why talk about covenants?

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

What Did the Covenants Mean?

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

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

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

covenants

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

What Do Covenants Have to Do with Us?


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

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

Covenants Old and New

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

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Frolic Like a Happy Calf in the Midst of Destruction

An Unusual Message From the Messenger

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

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

frolic

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

An Attitude That’s in Short Supply

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

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

The Surprising Result of Reverence

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

The Dance of Reverence

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

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

Life can be hard. The bumps and bruises we get as a toddler are nothing compared to the emotional distress of rejection in middle school. And the painful episodes in middle school don’t compare to the true heartbreak we often encounter as young adults. The ancient Hebrews knew that our heart is more than a pump to distribute oxygen- it is the center of our emotions, perceptions, and self-worth. In a fallen world, we say it can be hurt and even broken. We experience self-doubt, insecurity, rejection and loss. And it ain’t easy.

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

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

Shell Games

hard hearts

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

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

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

What Happens When Hearts are Hardened?

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

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

Ain’t no Feeling in Those Hard Hearts

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

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

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

enough

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

When is Enough, Enough?

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

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

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

First Things First?

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

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

I Can’t Get No

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

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

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

Zephaniah

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

A Warrior’s Love Song?

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

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

Created and Called

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

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

Are You Feeling What Zephaniah Felt?

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

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

Lullaby of Love

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

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

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

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

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

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

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

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

Is There a Method to Decide?

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

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

amazed

Amazed or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Amazing God

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

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Destruction Draws Us Inevitably Like Moths to a Flame

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

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

destruction moths

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

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

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

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

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

The Equation That Never Changes

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

The Variable in the Equation

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

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

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