Esther’s Impossible Choice: Would YOU, Too, 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.

She had to put her life on the line just to appear before the king! 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

Lots of Trees, ONE Job: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A Tale of Two Trees…

You Only Had ONE Job… and we all know how THAT usually goes. Is the same thing true about trees? You only had ONE tree…

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

Actually, Way MORE than Two

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

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

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

trees to choose

One Tree, Though…

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

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

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

Some Things Never Change

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

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

All those Trees…

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

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

Promises Made By Someone Patient, Persistent, and Perfect

People make and break a lot of promises. Good intentions don’t always work out, things and people change, and sometimes promises don’t get fulfilled… I promise you, though, that if you read this you will be encouraged that there is a Promise Keeper, and He’s made some promises to YOU:

Long Standing Promises From a Very Old Book

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV) I know some people don’t like the King James Version of the Bible, and most of us have moved on to other more modern versions. But it is the Bible I grew up on, the one in which I memorized and studied for most of my formative Christian years.

As a result, I still like it and still use it from time to time. Yes, the language can be archaic and awkward, and sometimes it is harder to read or understand; but it can also be more formal and beautiful. And sometimes (like this time, for instance) it just flat-out creates the opportunity to make some good points, and to explore the promises of God.

promises

There’s a Difference

This is one of those verses, because it says: 1) God keeps his promises. Scripture shows over and over that the Lord’s timing is different from man’s, and in fact Peter has just reminded us of that in verse 8. But the story of redemption as presented in the Bible over a span of thousands of years is a complex tapestry woven from revelation and history that depicts God keeping. His. Promises. Men are fickle and inconstant, and we see them throughout the tapestry weaving threads of greed, murder, deceit, lust, jealousy, violence and betrayal. God’s persistent love remains true throughout.

2) God is patient. Yes, the Lord is to be feared, and yes it is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the Living God, and yes His judgment is terrible; but Peter reminds us that God’s wrath never falls impatiently, and that He is long-suffering towards rebellious fools who thumb their nose at Him, deny Him, and disdain His Word.

True No Matter How You Say It

3) I just like the use of “us-ward”. He is an “us-ward” God. He is the God of relationships. The Lord introduced Himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. We are His children and he is our Father. His love and concern and good-will are pointed “us-ward”. He loves US and His promises are made to US.

4) The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This verse doesn’t say that God will bring everyone to salvation. In fact, Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:13-14 that “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” But it does say that God wants all men to come to repentance. I think it’s logical that an “us-ward” God is looking for some “God-ward” people, so repent. Claim His promises. Be God-ward. I think it makes sense no matter how you say it.

Us-ward Promises

Peter said something we really should cherish:
The Lord is not willing that any should perish,
But offered His love–and He offers it still!–
Without overriding our choice or our will,
And He offers His promise, His Word, and His voice,
While He lovingly, patiently gives us a choice…
KJV says He is patient to us-ward;
Perhaps we’d be smarter by turning to God-ward.

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

Writing YOUR Story: It’s Time for YOU to write ME!

Why have I been writing these posts for the last 3 years? Maybe because “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV) The Bible is an amazing book, and it makes some powerful claims about Jesus. Those claims are either an incredible lie or they are absolutely true. There’s really no middle ground.

I have been writing these posts because I believe those claims are true.

The What of Writing this Blog

It has been about three years since I started this daily devotional, and I have a confession to make. Writing these posts every day is hard. It has required a commitment that I honestly didn’t know I had. I am not a “discipline guy”. I am a creative, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Throughout my life I have been a sporadic Quiet Time guy rather than an every-day-journal kind of guy.

From the beginning of this endeavor, I have followed a few simple rules. 1) The first year, I was going to try to produce or edit one every day; 2) I wouldn’t follow anyone else’s menu for Scripture reading or devotionals (which explains why it has been pretty random in terms of what passages it addressed when); 3) during this last year I have gone back through to do some editing and add a poem to every single post. And 4) I would write for an audience of one (Him) and make applications for the reader who needed them the most (me).

The How of Writing this Blog

In doing this have tried my best to keep my posts organic and to allow them to come naturally through my own reading and experiences during the year. While I certainly reflected the good preaching I have heard and authors I have read, the poetry, commentary, errors, reflections and conclusions in my writing have been mine. ( I have tried to be Biblical, not political, and I hope that has been the case in my blog… That has been hard to do in our current political climate.) I wanted to begin every day with the Book that has changed my life in the hope that you, too, could gain a deeper appreciation of its depth and subtlety.

I consider the Bible to be (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16) inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. If you have been keeping up, during the past year we have had a chance to look more closely at Easter and the Passion week. Along the way, we followed Jesus and his disciples chronologically in “real-time” over His last week on earth.

Did You Notice?

We were able to start in Genesis and go through every book in the Bible, discovering some great stuff about God in the Minor Prophets along the way. We dove into Christ’s genealogy, looked at historical and political underpinnings of His birth. It was fascinating to explore the revolutionary way He broke down social and religious barriers in a world full of them.

We looked at some of Jesus’ teachings, and I know I came away more impressed than ever at His wisdom and insight. I have reflected on travels in Israel and been exposed to the land of the Bible. Personally, I have tried to compare the teachings of Jesus to our culture and to my own behavior.

Who Wrote this Blog

Trust me, ya’ll, I am not writing as an expert or someone who has it all figured out. I have made tremendous mistakes in my life and committed egregious sins. My own choices have literally blown my life up a couple of times. Full disclosure, it should have happened even a couple more times, and I still don’t know why it didn’t. I have certainly felt the private shame connected to those mistakes, but I was surprised that my failures did not become public knowledge so that EVERYONE would look down on me.

And to be clear, I made these mistakes and committed sins AS A CHRISTIAN, not as some pagan who had rejected God and His values. The one constant (besides my own failures) in life has been the relentless application of grace. I have experienced forgiveness and God’s love as seen through the lens of the Bible, and personified in the person of Jesus Christ.

writing about Jesus

Surely I’m Not the Only One Who Feels This Way…

If Jesus was who He said he was, then He is a man worth studying. He is a leader worth emulating, and a God worthy of worship. It is my prayer that you would take an honest look at Him and see those conclusions as evident and logical. If you have read along for any length of time this year, I would LOVE to hear your story, and would really appreciate it if you do one of the following.

1) I want to challenge you to do just a teeny bit of writing of your own. Share one of your own insights or applications in the comments (which is easy, come on just jot something down!), or

2) PM me with your story or comment as you feel appropriate. I would really REALLY like to hear from you, so take a minute NOW and reply or respond. I honestly don’t expect to get many replies, but it would be really cool if a bunch of you would surprise me and tell me a little bit of YOUR story! Tell me how you met Christ, or something you have learned lately… If you want to tell me you disagree with everything I’ve written, that would be OK too! If you are too busy to write a long story, then please respond with a short sentence or a one-word comment.

writing

Feedback

I have taken comments and feedback to heart, and a couple of people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to invest more time in writing poetry with each of my posts. So I’ve done that over the last year, and started closing every blog with a poem. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite poem or if any of the verse has meant something to you.

(My secret dream is that somewhere unbeknownst to me, some pastor uses one of my poems in a sermon because it captures something of the message he preached that day!)
I’ll close with one of my favorite poems I’ve written, one that reflects on John and the impact his writing has had on me:

The Writer

Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!


Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be? Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…

But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

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

Words are powerful: How Important are Words in YOUR World?

Words have the power to transform or trash. They can unite and inspire, or they can divide and harm. Something said can insult us and hurt us, but it can also be the soothing salve on a fresh emotional wound. Take a moment and think about your words, or the impact someone else’s comments have had on you. I bet you can still remember that thing someone said to you once that hurts your feelings even now when you think about it. I had a derogatory nickname in elementary school that still stings if I think about it. Over 50 years later I feel it, even though I know it doesn’t apply. Words last a long time…

words kill

The Power of Words

I guess it’s not surprising that the Bible offers insight about words and what they do. After all, Scriptures themselves are words… “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.” (Proverbs 4:20, NIV) “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, NKJV)

So What About This Treasure?

A couple of questions naturally arise from these verses:

1) how much of God’s treasure do you actually hear and “give attention to”? We are in a world surrounded by and bombarded with words from every imaginable source, covered over with phrases or slogans designed to influence you, get you to buy, to build a Brand, give you a call to action, or persuade you to listen again.

Some Words About…

Words in our culture invade and surround you;
You hear them and see them in things all around you:
The radio, laptop, your TV, your phone,
On billboards and signs, they won’t leave you alone!
They fly through the air and they nest in your ears;
Your brain then records every word that it hears!
Words in commercials will just try to sell you;
You can’t believe everything newscasters tell you.

The words fill your mind, and there’s no place to hide,
Since those THOUSANDS of messages can’t be denied!
So be careful what words you allow to reside,
Since it’s words that influence who you are, inside… If THOSE words are sobering, they’re just a start:
The real danger lives right at home in your heart:
Your heart’s not at risk from words flying about,
But from words, Jesus said, from within, coming OUT.

Do you really pay attention to God’s word? Does the quick sermon on Sunday morning arm you with all the spiritual power you need for the week? Is your weekly small group lesson enough to equip you for spiritual battle? What do you “incline your ear to”? Do you pay attention to what you pay attention to?

Song Lyrics, Yes. Scripture, well…

2) How many of God’s sayings reside in the midst of your heart? I know SO much useless information and so much junk…but how many of God’s sayings are “in the midst of my heart”? When I think of all of the hundreds of old songs I can sing along with– every meaningless word of old tunes like “Hang on Sloopy” or “”Do-wa-diddy, Diddy-dum-Diddy do”, or even “You Can Call me Al”, it makes me think that perhaps my brain capacity has been just a teeny bit under-utilized. Maybe we should all start singing favorite Bible verses to catchy tunes.

3) It sounds pretty easy, but pay attention to the phrases and comments you USE. Instead of tearing down, try building up. Words have a remarkable facility to do either. Use them to do good.

words

So we have millions of words stored up, but the question is, Are they good ones? What do they say about us when we are saying them? We sure use a lot of them (he said, in a blog full of WORDS…). And by the way social media friends, when you criticize, rant, curse, mislead, spin, lie, spew hate; or when in conversation you tell dirty jokes, ridicule, gossip, cuss, and swear, it’s an indicator that maybe “the midst of your heart” needs a little work. Just sayin’.

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

Peace to You, Brother: Change a Greeting, Change the World

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2, NIV) This is a very simple greeting, but as is so often true, the simple is sometimes the most profound.

Author Linda Olsson said, “It’s often about the simple things, isn’t it? Painting and photography are first about seeing, they say. Writing is about observing. Technique is secondary. Sometimes the simple is the most difficult.” We live in such a complex world, but at the root of all complexity is simplicity, so maybe it makes sense to take all of the world’s problems and begin to address them at a very simple level.

A Simple Place to Start

Consider the act of greeting one another. In everyday conversational exchanges, we say “Hi! What’s up? How are you? Hello there!” or as Joey Tribbiani (from “Friends”) would say, “How YOU doin’?” And while friendly enough, these greetings don’t really carry the same love or impact that saying “Grace and Peace to you, my friend’ would carry.

What if you did something simple, and greeted everyone with “Grace and Peace to you”, and meant it? Would it change anyone’s day? Would it change YOUR day? It would certainly make people think…and it might make YOU think.

First of all, it assumes you know about Grace, and that you wish it upon your fellow-man. What if you really felt that way? What if EVERYONE really felt that way? If you just stop to consider for a moment the magnitude of Grace and how healing and redeeming it truly is, imagine how different life would be if all of us approached everyone with Grace! Wouldn’t we all be in an amazing place if everyone had the goodwill and the passion to wish grace upon each other (and therefore) the world?

No Peace, or Know Peace?

The second part of the greeting has just as much potential: “Peace to you”.

peace sign

How would being peaceful change the world? Ron Artest (an NBA player) changed his name to “Meta World Peace”, but I’m not sure that even changed Ron Artest. The Baby Boomers flashed the peace sign and protested war, but did it really change anything? I think Paul is referring here to the personal inner kind rather than world peace, but if you think about it, if every individual found peace perhaps the world would as well.

But think about it: how many people do you know who are both graceful and forgiving? How many people do you encounter who would benefit from being both MORE graceful and MORE forgiving?

We live in the Polar Age, where culture encourages people to divide into opposing social groups, political parties, and critical camps. It’s Conservatives versus Liberals, Whites versus Blacks, Haves versus have-nots, Straights versus Gays, what I want versus what everyone else wants… No matter where you are in any of those polar opposites, could you sincerely wish the other side “Grace and Peace”? What would happen if you DID?

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” If He was generous enough to leave us His Peace, the least we could do is share it with each other.

A New Way to do Social Media

In a world of polar hate, Full of insult and debate,
Could we try another way? To simply and sincerely say,
“Grace and Peace, my Friend, to YOU. Easy to say, but hard to DO
We can change our attitude, give “peace” and not be misconstrued,
Have dialog and not be rude, and keep from being lewd or crude!
No more insults to be hurled: Change your greeting, change the world!

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 Don’t Even Know That YOU are Experiencing Culture Shock

There is a conflict going on all around you, and you may not have even noticed. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV) If you’ve ever lived in another country where English is not spoken you may have gone through culture shock. Culture shock is NOT being shocked by stuff we see in another culture– it’s the emotional impact of assimilating into a foreign society.

Culture is related (obviously) to cult, which makes sense if you think about it. In any local environment, we all listen to the same news, wear the same fashions, and somewhat slavishly follow the same celebrities and customs. When we travel to another country and are plunked down into a different language and set of customs, something starts to happen…

Culture Shock

After a brief honeymoon period where everything is exciting and new, you begin to experience frustration and alienation. You can be particularly frustrated over your inability to express yourself and to have meaningful dialog with those around you.

Culture shock is like hitting an identity wall because you feel stunted and dense. You can’t explain some of the most elemental things you feel or think. It’s hard for you to share your opinions, your humor, or your feelings as effectively as you are used to doing. Your self-worth is challenged because almost all of the things you value about yourself are locked inside, hidden away unexpressed. Peter called believers sojourners and pilgrims on this earth (1 Peter 2:11), because we are aliens in a foreign land.

The Great Divide

Jesus said “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”, and because of that irreconcilable tension, Christians are forced to live as spiritual beings in a culture driven by flesh and the values of the world. The world adores celebrities, the kind of people who project themselves out there by any means available, who say “Don’t you know who I am?”

You receive literally thousands of messages a day celebrating the shallow and the temporary, calling your attention away from things that are actually important. But Jesus called his followers to be sanctified, to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves”, and to somehow live “IN the world without being OF the world”.

In or OF?

And at this we fail. Early and often. We compromise. In churches we withdraw into holy huddles. Some church-goers reduce the amazing Christian life wherein we are forgiven and reborn to a bunch of lame “do’s” and “don’ts”. We justify ourselves, we rationalize our mistakes, and we criticize all those OTHER sinners. Believers struggle at articulating what we really feel about being a follower of Christ in a world that doesn’t always care about that.

Have you ever had spiritual culture shock? Have you felt like a hypocrite? Found yourself frustrated over being unable to express love the way you know Jesus wants you to? Ever used the usual excuses: “I’m not a speaker/evangelist/professional? I don’t like being up front, that’s not my gift, I’d rather work behind the scenes, or I’m really nobody special, God will use gifted folks for that kind of stuff…”?

culture

Who’s Who?

Ever felt like the love of Christ within you is an amazing treasure locked inside of you, but you’re just not sure how to express it? Then there is GREAT NEWS! God never intended for YOU to be accountable for that. In fact, Paul says the opposite is true. God has placed His amazing love within you so that people see it and recognize that it’s not yours, but HIS. We are only “earthen vessels”, but Paul says there is more to us than that!

The TMZ world celebrates looks, money, achievement, power, and external things. It rewards those who push their way to the front of the culture. It is designed to make us all feel like we are missing something. Paul says that it is not the obvious outer stuff that makes us amazing. It is the hidden inner treasure.

Whose Are You?

While we place tremendous value in what we can SEE, the Lord apparently says there is also great value in what is NOT seen. There is a spiritual dimension to us that enables the very Spirit of God to uplift us, inspire us, and motivate us to be different than the world. It is not so much a matter of who we are. It is more a matter of WHOSE we are…

You don't have to tweet a lot, or drive a fancy car;
And You don't have to get tattoos or try to be bizarre;
You don't have to play guitar, or have your name on a candy bar,
Or get too far in politics, or be a senator or a czar!
You don't have to be too rich, or be a movie star;
You don't have to get high, and impress friends at the bar:
It's not just who you know that counts, but more in WHOSE you ARE.

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’ve Been Given Gifts! Receive them. Now Give them Away.

When you are given gifts, you usually get excited about opening them. You probably don’t think of giving them away. Paul, however, says that’s exactly what you should do:
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; and if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; and if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8, NIV)

given gifts

The Reason for Gifts

Gifts, says Paul, are given to each of us according to grace. Not the “tear open the wrapping paper” kind of gifts, and not necessarily the “this is your gift, for only you to enjoy” kind of gifts, but the “I am giving this to you so that you can give it to others” kind of gift. Our flesh loves to celebrate giftedness itself, and we make much of talented musicians and athletes; Grace loves to make gifts useful by humbling them in service to others.

Right after Paul says that we are all part of the body of Christ, and we all belong to each other, he exhorts us to utilize what we have been given on behalf of others.
He presents this as an “if-then” kind of process, which really has two steps. First, determine what your gift is. Paul declares that we all have different gifts, given to us spiritually “according to the grace given to each of us.”

There are gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, and they are all focused on “others”, not on “Me”. In context, he is saying that these gifts are bestowed on each believer as part of the body of Christ in order to serve the other members of the body. And here in Romans Paul basically says, “If you have been given a gift, then use it.”

How Should You Use What You Have?

So ask yourself the question: what have I been gifted with? A spiritual gift is not necessarily a talent (although it could be related), and not necessarily something you are accomplished at; it is really more a quality that other believers see in you even when you don’t always see it in yourself. If you aren’t sure, pray about it, and then ask some fellow believers close to you what they feel your gift(s) might be. You might be surprised by the answers you get.

Secondly, whatever gift you have been given, USE IT. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.“ Being motivated by grace puts a whole different spin on receiving a gift: Open it. Use it. Give it away.

A Gift Given Should Be A Gift, Given

God’s given something to everyone
To enrich our lives, to create some fun.
These gifts aren’t meant to be just enjoyed,
But are given to us to be re-employed!
When you can do something and others it lifts,
You’ve probably discovered your spiritual gifts.
As we open them up we should give them to others,
To build and encourage our sisters and brothers.
If Paul was still preaching among us, today,
He’d look at our gifts and here’s what he’d say:
Your gifts are not gifts ’til they’re 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 Substance of Hope, Or How Faith Changed the World

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).

The Substance of Faith

The writer of Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. If you dissect the syllables and break that down, substance comes from sub (under) and stance (from stand), or that which stands under a thing. Knowing what stands under a thing will often help our understanding OF a thing. Looking closer, the Greek word used for substance is hypostasis, which referred to the underlying state or condition of a thing. It was also a legal term used in real estate transactions because it indicated that there was an underlying legal document (the title-deed) that provided proof of ownership and possession.

Faith is basically our deed of trust, giving us ownership of hope, and a reasonable expectation that God will do what He promised to do. The things which we CAN see are a down payment towards the things we CAN’T see. Creation points us towards faith and proves God’s reliability, because it demonstrates that all visible things were made by the One who is not visible.

God does what He does. You can believe or not believe. You can choose to ignore the evidence He placed about himself into creation—the vastness of the universe, the delicate balance of the earth hung in orbit, the intricacy of a cell, the seasons, a flower, and the canvas of the sky every day—or you can allow it to stimulate faith.

substance

If you follow God by faith, the writer of Hebrews says, it will change your life. The elders obtained a good testimony by their faith, and Hebrews 11 goes on to discuss the stories of those who believed, and changed not only their own lives but human history as well… Faith is a big deal, ya’ll, but here’s the thing: God will never MAKE you believe.

Which Side of the Conundrum are You On?

It’s an interesting intellectual conundrum, but God did not make himself provable because He has given us a choice. An empirical God (one with substance that could be proven physically) would remove our will from the equation; we’d have no choice but to accept Him and worship Him. So the loving God preserved our choice by withholding PROOF and giving us EVIDENCE. That way we can decide how we feel about Him.

Everyone can be skeptical about a God who painted portions of His self-portrait into a chosen people, an Exodus, the Pentateuch, a shepherd-king, the Psalms, the prophets, history (His Story), His Son, the Word, and into relationships throughout every generation… You can dismiss the people of faith as irrational, and you can live your entire life ignoring God. Mankind doesn’t have to seek God or engage Him in any way. You don’t ever have to have faith in God…

It’s Really YOUR Choice

So, if you decide that faith in God is not for you, there are things you will never understand about God. You won’t understand the paradoxes that exist between His kingdom and ours: serve to lead; be humble to be great; love your enemies; die to live… You will never know about the substance of His character, His generosity, His wisdom, or His love. You won’t discover the presence of a loving Father who provides comfort to those who mourn, peace to those who worry, and a home to those who wander. And, oh yeah, your world will never change; it will never stretch beyond the boundaries of what you see or know empirically.

But if you search for God, He promises that there is something in it for YOU. Hebrews 11:6 gives makes this awesome claim: “whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

But Does Faith Work?

Looking back through history, faith has changed the world time and again. Abraham left home to start a new nation because he believed God; Moses became one of the great leaders of all time by faith. The early church emerged with radical impact because of faith. Faith in the resurrection changed the hearts of men,and those men changed the world. The Roman Empire was built by men of action, but faith outlasted it and toppled it. This world is full of men and governments seeking the means to impose their will on other men; God’s kingdom, based on faith, will outlast them all.

Wherever you come from, wherever you’ve been, whatever you believe or think, ask yourself this question: what is the substance of the things you hope for? Hebrews says if you seek God in faith, He will be pleased and He will respond to you. Seek in faith today. Be rewarded forever.

The Evidence of What We’ve Yet to See

Faith is what we hope for based on what we cannot see–
Like holding grapes, anticipating wine.
We see the universe and wonder how it came to be,
Inferring a Designer from design.
God is not empirical, or a theorem you can prove,
His substance is much more than what is taught;
He says that faith will find Him, and the mountain can be moved,
But it’s your choice to live by faith, or not.
You can live by intellect, observe God and critique Him;
Or You can get to know Him, if by faith you truly seek Him.

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

Scripture: Ancient Book, or the Right Tool for the Job?

What if I told you that there was a tool that will help you be more profitable and do more good? Would you use it? There is such a tool, and it is probably as close as your bookshelf. It’s a book of wisdom that says this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV)

scripture

What Good is the Bible, Anyway?

In order to guard against “evil men and impostors”, Paul tells Timothy to look at his own exemplary life, and to continue in the things he has learned and been assured of (v 14). Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures offer him the necessary assurance to bear opposition and uncertainty. What are you ASSURED of? When the chips are down, what gives you strength and confidence? What do you absolutely believe?

We live in a world assaulted by relativism, where we are told that truth is subjective and individual. Something may be true for you, but it’s not necessarily true for everyone. One of Satan’s great accomplishments in our lifetime is his assault on the truth. If he can make us, like Pontius Pilate, question the nature of truth, he can reduce the influence of Scripture and erode the underpinnings of faith. And since Jesus said, “I am the truth”, it follows absolutely that by attacking truth, Satan is attacking Jesus, the Gospel, and everything that offers hope in this world.

Paul reminds Timothy that the Scripture is still his foundation. First, it is inspired by God. The original language asserts that God’s word is “God-breathed”. It is a dynamic, living document that was infused into authors so that it can be infused into us. Are Scriptures as much a part of your life as breathing? Do you ever consult the Bible on issues of morality, ethics, or how to get things done?

The Tools for Almost Every Job

Paul says that if you use Scripture, it is profitable and useful. It will equip you for doctrine (you will understand what generates and maintains the foundation of faith), for reproof (you will know how to exhort and encourage others), for correction (you will know right from wrong and be able to act upon it), and for instruction in righteousness (you can continue to be infused with the same character that God has).

If you invest in the Word, Paul says, you will be “complete”, and “thoroughly equipped for EVERY good work.” That covers a lot of good works. Grab hold of the Scripture. Get equipped. Do good.

A Workman’s Tools

Paul tells Timothy to stay and study Scripture every day,
To find within its pages all the wisdom of the ages.
It offers doctrine and correction, reproof and spiritual protection;
Follow what it says. You'll find it helps your heart & soul and mind.
When into its wisdom you have dipped,
You'll find you have a foot that hasn't slipped,
And furthermore, my son, you'll be equipped!
Life can be approached by any fool; 
It's better if you use this awesome tool.
If you apply yourself, and do not shirk,
You'll soon be well-equipped to do good work.

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 the God of Relationships Calls, Answer it Immediately!

What is life if not a network of relationships? Oscar Thompson, my Evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, used to ask his classes, “What is the most important word in the English language? Students would answer, “love” or “money”, or “God”, and Oscar would say, “Nope. None of those words had any meaning without the word I am thinking of: that word is RELATIONSHIP.”

Sometimes relationships come out of nowhere to change our lives. Genesis records an instance where this was true. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God… (Exodus 3:5-6, NIV)

relationships

The God of Relationships

I have always thought that the way God introduced himself to Moses was revealing, which makes good sense because He is and has always been the God of revelation. In this case, He also identifies Himself as the God of relationships — the God of Moses’ father, and of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Bible is the story of how God has revealed Himself to man, and how He has engaged in relationships with us. Here in Exodus He revealed himself to Moses when Moses least expected it. Moses was out tending sheep, not going to church or studying the Bible. And yet, God met him where he was, and revealed Himself to Moses.

Does God still reveal himself to us? On this earth, we encounter the Lord on his terms, not ours. Moses grew up in a land with many gods, so it had to be somewhat of a shock to him to encounter the One True God.

If you think of it, however, we are all in Moses’ sandals, and some point we are all called to step out of them. We have all grown up surrounded and tempted by many gods—celebrities, material things, success, ego, power, lust—and the real question is, have you ever met the One True God? Do you know who He is?

Did God Create Us, or Did We Create Him?

To that end, the introduction to Buell Kazee’s Faith is the Victory contains one of the greatest statements about God I have ever read:

“God creates man in his image, and man creates God in his image. It depends on who is doing the creating as to what kind of being we have in either case. Man, left to himself, will always have a god, and that god will always be like man himself. Because man is confused, he will make for himself many gods, but they will all be like himself. The conflict of the world is between the One God, who arises from beyond man’s realm of knowledge, and the many gods which he has created out of his own heart.” (Faith is the Victory, Intro, page 9)

This world is full of many gods (with a small “g”), man-made idols that people may not even realize they worship. When God reveals Himself, it is surprising to most folks that there is actually only one God, and that He is offering them a choice.

An Interesting Introduction

The way God identified himself to Moses is significant. He didn’t say to Moses, “I am the great cosmic all-powerful God of the universe.” He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” What a surprising way for God to introduce himself!

In essence, he was telling Moses: “I am the God who loves people. I am the God of relationships. You can know me personally, just as your forefathers did. Look at the people who have walked with me, and you will see who I am and what I do. Look for reflections of my character in those who have no earthly means to possess it otherwise. Accept my revelation of who I am, and you can walk with me just as they did. Ignore the many meaningless gods that clamor for your attention, and walk with me.”

Stop and take a look around your life. There are indeed still meaningless gods who clamor for your attention. Somewhere amidst all the material things, the celebrities, the agendas, the politics, the cell phones, the incessant ads, the sports, and the intrusive pervasive media, the God of relationships is revealing Himself to you. Don’t miss Him.

The God Who Is

In Egypt, gods were everywhere–
An idol here, a temple there–
Worshipping idols was the style:
They worshipped cats! The Sun! The Nile!
But Moses in the desert ran
Into the God who said, “I AM”.
“I am the God of Abraham–
Isaac and Jacob, too.”

Moses didn’t doubt and scoff;
He stopped and took his sandals off;
He knew this was a holy place
And so he stopped, and hid his face.
This relationship with God was new:
It gave him more to dare, and do–
Changed more than how he wore his shoes–
Changed everything that Moses knew,
His life, his plans, his point of view!
If God introduced Himself to YOU,
Tell me, then, what YOU would do:

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

The Sustenance That Feeds You Where You Need It Most

Sustenance is defined as “food and drink regarded as a source of strength; nourishment; or the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence.” As I’m sure you are all aware, sustenance is vital in this life, and all of us need something to eat. After all, it is what sustains you. But are there different kinds of sustenance? And do we eat what we need?

Jeremiah the prophet described that question in this way: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16, NKJV).

The Apostle Peter said this: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it…” (1 Peter 2:2, NKJV)

Different Kinds of Food

We need sustenance in the form of food or nutrition to grow physically. An important part of any training regimen involves proper fuel that provides the correct nutrients for the body… But how about other types of growth? Intellectual growth requires education and information; social development requires knowledge about etiquette; but what about spiritual growth? How does one sustain a spiritual life?  Besides the verses just mentioned here, there are several times that the Word of God is described as our sustenance or our spiritual food. It’s an interesting analogy, and one that deserves some thought.

First, it indicates that spiritual growth is a process, not something that happens instantly. You don’t eat all the meals of your life in one sitting, and you don’t absorb the Bible that way either. Peter says that we start as immature spiritual beings, and should begin with “the pure milk” of the word, receiving our sustenance in a form we can handle. It’s an analogy that makes sense. You grow in understanding God’s word as you “eat” it and apply it in your life, and it provides your spiritual sustenance.

You Are What You Eat

Second, look in the mirror at your physical self. Then imagine your spiritual self. If God’s word is your spiritual sustenance, then what kind of shape is your spiritual man in? How much sustenance does he or she get? When you look into your spiritual mirror, who do you see?

sustenance

I feed my physical body, (usually more than it requires) and I make sure it gets the fuel it needs to grow and stay strong. It’s easy for us to see the results of feeding our physical man. Now, picture your spiritual man (or woman) in your mind’s eye. He’s up there, waiting for nourishment. His needs are the same as or even greater than your physical body’s. But is he or she strong and healthy? How many meals a week are you feeding HIM (or HER)?

For most of us, I’d bet that our “spiritual self” is just wasting away, looking like a prison camp refugee, half-starved and emaciated. Our spiritual self is weak and listless, propped over in a corner just waiting for the preacher to spoon-feed them their weekly meal…

Come to the Banquet

If God’s word is our spiritual food, we should be sitting at the banquet table enjoying a feast each day, not waiting for someone else to toss us a crust of bread every once in a while. Think about your poor spiritual body, and consider feeding it a little life-giving nourishment. Sit down and have a spiritual meal every so often.

Jeremiah says that if you do, a couple of things will happen. First, God’s words provide a reason to live with joy and rejoicing in your heart. Not a bad outcome if you’d like a little more JOY in your life! And second, Jeremiah says he was identified with God. He was called by God’s name, which means he was in the family, fully adopted as an heir—another positive result and another reason to rejoice. So eat. Grow. Rejoice. Repeat.

Eat Well, and Live

Look into your spiritual mirror. Who is looking back?
Are they strong, or is there maybe something that they lack?
If the Word of God is food, how often are they eating?
Do they get nutrition in the meals that you are feeding?
Can you, like Jeremiah, say the Word of God is filling?
Do you really want some? You can get it, if you’re willing.
You can say with him, “Thy Words were found, and I did eat them”,
And folks will sense a godly spirit in you when you meet them.
Remember this: the word of God is food, and it is real.
Your spiritual man should eat some every day, at every meal.

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