Micah Learned a Secret in the Dark. So Can You

Most folks would say that we are living in dark times, and if you just listen to the nightly news you will be moved to feel both uncertainty and anxiety. The stress of dealing with a pandemic affects not only how we live but how we react to how we have to live. Depression casts its shadow over normally happy lives, and shadows prevail over sunshine… If you are living in darkness, Micah says you have an advocate, and that you will again be able to rise and shine. Here’s the secret:

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.” (Micah 7:7-9, NIV).

Micah

Micah predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, at a time when Jerusalem seemed to have recovered some of their spiritual equilibrium under Hezekiah. After years of darkness under evil rulers, it seemed that God’s glory over Israel was about to shine again in perpetuity. Yet Micah preached that the opposite was going to happen. I’m sure he was criticized and ridiculed, and there were times when it must have seemed as if he was swimming against the current, standing alone in a culture that felt somewhat holy and successful.

How Should We Deal With Difficulty and Stress?

He says two things that are instructive. 1) He says “I wait for God my Savior”. How many times do I get impatient with God? We are the instant gratification generation, and often try to move far ahead of God’s timing or our own preparedness. Abram waited 25 YEARS for God to fulfill his promise of a son. Moses spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court, and then 40 YEARS as a fugitive before God called him to lead Israel out of slavery. After his conversion, Paul spent at least three YEARS in the desert being prepared for his mission. Over and over the Bible illustrates that God’s timing often requires patience.

2) Micah sees God’s judgment as one hundred per cent just; he acknowledges God not only as his righteous judge, but also as his advocate. He places his fate entirely in God’s hands. Micah allows the light of God to shine into the darkest parts of his heart. It stands to reason that Micah has to tell his defense attorney everything, and he has to confess to all of his crimes. That might be especially awkward when your advocate is also your judge. In God’s courtroom, however, it is the best move to make.

Good for You

Confession is not only good for the soul, it is the key to staying right with God. David committed terrible sins, but stayed intimate with God because of his contrite confession. Micah also has confidence that he has an advocate in God because he confessed.

In the New Testament words of John, it is the same with us: “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And, “if any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the righteous.” (1 John 1:9, 2:1). You want to hope in the Lord? Confess. Would you like to rise after you have fallen? Confess. Live in the light? Confess. Receive defense from the best advocate ever? You got it. Take a minute this morning to confess humbly before your God. Then watch. Hope. Rise. Shine!

Micah’s Advocate

Micah lived in misery, and sat in darkest night,
Preaching to his enemies without a hope in sight!
And yet, he said with confidence, "The Lord will be my light!"
Micah stood before the court whose judgment he must face,
And yet he said "Lord I confess. Please, Father, plead my case."
So, when you stand before the bench, like me and all the rest,
Make sure you have an advocate who's better than the best;
In this case you will have the greatest chance if you've confessed,
So, tell the Father you've transgressed and get it off your chest! 
Even though there may be darkness covering your eyes,
Confess, and let God plead your case, and see His light, and Rise.

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 Locusts of Sin Destroy Everything they Touch

I remember seeing an old movie about some settlers on the prairie who were attacked by a swarm of locusts. The insects literally darkened the sky like a cloud and brought darkness and fear everywhere they went. These clouds of millions of bugs literally consumed all of the crops in their path. These kinds of swarms of Locusts came sweeping through Biblical lands from time to time, eating crops, consuming future food supplies and leaving devastation in their wake…

locusts

Why Judgment?

Here in the 30th book of the Bible, Joel compares the judgment day of the Lord to such an event, a time of fear and devastation. “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity…Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…“ (Joel 2:11-13; 21; 25, NIV)

Since you and I have probably never been swarmed over by millions of locusts, it’s instructive for us to consider what does indeed bring destruction into our lives, and what causes pain, loss, and devastation. It’s also what connects us irrevocably to God’s judgment. which the Minor Prophets are so good at pointing out. We live in a fallen, broken world, and we are subject to the Lord’s judgment because of sin. Our self-will and disobedience bring the locusts destruction into our lives even though (as Joel points out) our Father’s desire is to be gracious and compassionate.

Not so Minor

The “Minor” prophets delivered messages that warned about the impending Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and calamity brought about by the unfaithfulness of Israel. God’s intent to allow judgment to fall on Israel is a major theme in the Minor Prophets. Israel is warned that if they keep following little gods, they will indeed encounter justice at the hands of the Living God.

There is, however another theme that stands out like a beautiful flower growing alone on a rough mountain ledge: restoration. God sends the warnings repeatedly to call Israel back to Himself. We have the benefit of hindsight, and yes, Israel left God; they experienced the total devastation akin to locusts eating all of their crops. At the risk of trivializing calamity,  the warnings God gave are actually more significant than the real tragedies that befell Israel.

Truth and Consequences

God’s consistent message was: Sin has consequences, and if you choose to live in sin, you will experience devastation and death. Stay with me, and you’ll be safe and protected. Return to me in genuine, heart-felt repentance, and you will know nothing but grace and compassion. If you don’t choose the locusts of sin, you’ll have my blessing instead!
Two thoughts occur to me here: we all have a tendency to “rend our garments but not our hearts.” First, acting like a Christian for others to see is not the same thing as being yielded and sold out to God. (I know this from years of experience). Remember that He looks upon our hearts, not just our outward behavior.

Second, when we turn to our Father with genuine humility, God will restore us. In Old Testament times, people who felt compelled to repent made a public display of it, tearing their clothes and laying prostrate on the street. Joel tells us to turn to the Lord, to rend our hearts and not just our garments. He says that God intends to make us whole, and to rebuild what our sinful choices have torn down, what the locusts of sin have destroyed. (I also claim this is true, based on years of experience.)

After all that Job went through, after all of the devastation and loss, when he turned back to God, his life was restored. Job 42:10 says “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” His repentance resulted in restoration and revival. It didn’t undo all of the damage that had been done, but it did give Job restoration and a fresh start. So, rend your heart instead of your garments! If you are acting like a Christian but harboring locusts, clean house!

After Locusts, Restoration

Farmers labored every day to earn a living from their fields,
Applying muscle, toil and sweat to try to get the greatest yields.
And then the cloud appeared– you couldn’t even do the math–
As locusts by the millions brought destruction in their path.
They ate the crops, the flowers, and they even ate the grass;
They only thought of selfish appetite when they would pass.

Well, sin is just like that. It only thinks of selfish things,
And doesn’t even care about the destruction that it brings;
It comes into your life and can destroy your peace of mind,
Without regard to all the pain and death it leaves behind…
God said, “Turn to me with all your heart, and not for show–
And I will give you grace, and let compassion overflow.”

If sin has hurt and knocked you down, don’t think that you are beaten
For God says he’ll repay you for the lost years that were eaten!
If you can turn away from sin, and simply trust the Lord,
You may just be surprised to see the things that He restored.

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

Restoration for the Smitten Suitor and the Unfaithful Wife

Sin threatened to destroy the relationship between the Smitten Suitor and the wayward bride. Only one thing could bring them Restoration. The Book of Hosea is one of the most unusual and interesting in the Bible, and it tells a story about love and restoration that will expand whatever boundaries you have about both of those words.

A Surprising Vow

After both his heart and their wedding vows have been broken by an unfaithful bride, the groom pulls himself together and makes another vow: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’”. (Hosea 2:14-16, NIV).

Hosea’s prophecy compares Israel to an unfaithful wife who committed all manner of adulterous acts. (It’s interesting that Hosea chooses a wayward bride, since our stereotypes might suggest that husbands are far more likely to be unfaithful than wives…His prophetic allusion is probably driven by our role as the Bride of Christ, and the fact that the Lord referred to himself as a husband several times in the OT.) In this prophecy, the Lord is her wounded husband whose passion cannot stem the righteous indignation and judgment his wife deserves. And yet in the middle of his anger and grief, these verses remind us that God has something else in mind for his wayward wife: restoration.

restoration

Loving Groom or Vengeful God?

He not only promises to restore their relationship, he intends to woo her and speak tenderly to her. Just as I am often startled by the Old Testament promises of swift and certain judgment by a righteous God, I find myself equally surprised by this picture. God is the passionate and loving husband who has been cheated on and lied to, embarrassed and hurt to the core by his wife’s infidelities. This jealous and passionate God dispenses not swift and terrible judgment or even vengeance, but instead tender unfailing love.

God’s people (His wife, if you will) have stopped worshipping the Lord and started giving their affection to other things, like money, status, control, or power. Hosea points out that Israel has forgotten her first love and traded it for shallow pagan rituals and illicit unions. They are estranged, and their relationship cries out for restoration with their creator and deliverer.

Let me make two observations: First, God is an emotional God. I think we sometimes feel like He is enthroned remotely, dispassionately over the universe, but remember: we are made in his image. We tend to think of God as a Judge; He thinks of us as a beloved spouse. The emotional winds that blow through us are shadows of the powerful emotions the Lord feels. He loves us wildly, completely, and powerfully, which leads logically to the second point: God’s love for you may be far deeper than you realize.

More Than a Feeling

God’s love is not a theological construct, and it’s not a Bible verse. It’s not even a religious love story told on a grand cosmic scale. It’s a passionate romance that includes betrayal and restoration. God is a lover smitten with His beloved; even when she betrays him (and, oh, she betrays him all the time!) He is reaching out to call her back. He plans to allure her, to shower her with affirmation and gentleness, to speak tenderly to her.

The Lord will woo her with grace when He has every right to destroy her with judgment… He says that he loves her SO much that he will forgive her unfaithfulness and restore her as his one true bride, even though she hurt him so deeply. Stop now, for just a moment, and think about who the bride is in this story.

Israel was so callous as to turn her back on the Lord, to ignore His loving pleas, and to go off chasing other (little) gods… Think about Hosea’s message and reflect on Israel’s unfaithfulness. They traded love for something less; they pursued selfish temporary satisfaction in place of abiding affection. How foolish could they be? How could they fail to see the error of their ways? Certainly they should have realized what they were missing. Say… when’s the last time you cheated on God?

Closer Than You Think

We think of God as in command,
Enthroned out in some distant land,
The Righteous Judge who now condemns
The actions and the hearts of men.
And yet He sends us tender notes,
And fills His word with loving quotes,
Reminding us that His great love
Could never be expressed enough.

No matter what you think you’ve heard
Look deeper through His written word,
And then perhaps you’ll make a start
To see what’s written in His heart.
Look deep and see how much He feels!
You’ll find that He’s head over heels,
And even when you run away,
He’ll woo you every single day.
Discover, when you’ve gone off track,
Your Lover always wants you back.
Listen, now: His love is strong.
His love erases every wrong,
So listen: you can hear His song
Wooing you back where you belong…

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

Ezekiel’s Audiences Didn’t Hear the Word! But, YOU Can!

“He who has Ears to Hear” was a phrase Jesus used many times. Usually it meant that there are many people who hear sermons with their brains but never take them into their hearts. What you hear in the spiritual world often fails to be applied in the secular one. Amazing how much it still applies today.

Ezekiel said, “Here’s your Problem, Right Here…”

“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NIV).

hear

Ezekiel’s sermons were well-crafted, like compellingly beautiful love songs sung beautifully and played with virtuosity. It must have been obvious to those who came to hear him that they were listening to the Word of God, skillfully presented to confront them and teach them with the truth. If he preached today, Ezekiel would be in a mega-church and would be heard by thousands.

There’s Hearing, and then There’s Hearing

Ezekiel was well-known, a prophet who had a long career bringing God’s Word to the people. His vivid description of Israel’s sin, betrayal, and impending judgment apparently made for good theatre, and he was the talk of the town for a while. People spoke about his sermons around the neighborhood, in the thoroughfares, and in the marketplace. He preached to packed houses, drawing big crowds who came to hear the messages. But his audience only gave his sermons lip service, and people failed to apply the prophet’s word to their lives.

Can you imagine something like that? People who spoke of love but were really only concerned with greed and material things? Hearing a message from God and yet not changing where it counts– in your heart– and then masquerading as a believer in front of others? Going to church on Sunday but living differently the other days of the week? It must have been a problem men struggled with for a long time, because even in the New Testament, James said, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Well, the good news is, Ezekiel and James lived a long time ago! I’m sure glad that kind of stuff never happens anymore…

Doers Not Hearers

We go to church, and we can’t wait
To hear a sermon that is great;
We worship, since that’s why we came
And walk back out the door, the same…
You can go to church and pray,
But it should change you every day;
So let me make this crystal clear:
If you have ears to hear, then hear!
If God’s word’s heard, and then applied,
You cannot stay the same inside.
If there’s a message that you’ve heard,
Then be a doer of the word.
Following Christ is more than talk:
So hear the word, and walk the walk.

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

New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Heartbreak or Hope?

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war. The Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. One of the great differences between the God of the Bible and other gods is compassion. Only this God became a man, shared our sorrows, and experienced our grief and pain. He knows where you are because He has been there. He understands loneliness, heartache, being misunderstood, and even the pain of death.

A Sliver of Hope May Be Enough

While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, Lamentations promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can be the only thing worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, move to the light.” In the darkest of pits, we have the opportunity to discover the comfort in God’s inextinguishable light.

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

New Day, New Hope

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

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

Is God Different Than You Expected? Change Your Expectations

Expectations play a large role in our contentment and happiness. Have you ever met someone who did not turn out to be who you expected, and you were disappointed? Have you met someone who surprised you by exceeding your expectations? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it?

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. His own siblings thought he might be crazy. The disciples saw him as a way up and out. They knew he was powerful but they weren’t really sure where that power was headed. The Pharisees saw him as an outsider, and they wanted to get rid of him. The Roman leaders didn’t know what to make of him.

The Heart of Expectations

Expectations may color our thinking, but they really don’t change the reality behind them. Things may not be what you expect, but they are definitely what they are. What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? And what if the wages of sin really are death? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).

expectations

A Matter of Perspective?

I’ve wondered many times why my Jewish friends don’t see Jesus the same way I do. He was Jewish, and he came as Messiah, yet he was not who they expected. In a way, I totally understand, because we are all immersed in our own reality, and sometimes it’s impossible to see around our own perspective. At the time, under Roman occupation, the Jewish Leaders looked for revolutionary deliverance, and were hoping for political independence and freedom.

Yet Jesus was not who they expected: he never got political, and didn’t seem to give a fig about overthrowing Rome.(Kind of ironic when you consider that Christianity played such a big role in ending the domination of the Roman empire…)

I’m sure the Jewish zealots who followed him were disappointed that he came as a suffering servant rather than as an earthly king. Apparently Jesus, who came to set up a spiritual kingdom through his suffering, did not meet their Messianic expectations, and they rejected the notion that he could be the One.

Missed it by That Much

I once heard Bill Dial preach a really good sermon speculating that perhaps Judas betrayed Christ only to force his hand and start the revolution he thought was ultimately coming… He expected Jesus to rise up in power, not to be tried like a criminal. When that happened, Judas was devastated by the way things turned out because he expected a King instead of the cross. He missed Jesus’ true purpose as expressed here in Isaiah, and ended up hanging himself in grief and remorse.

Question: do we ever miss who God really is because we are hoping for something different? Is God’s response ever different than you expected? “Lord, bless me financially and I’ll believe you are real.” “Lord, heal me and I’ll know it’s you.” Are we ever sitting in a cave like Elijah, expecting to see God in the whirlwind? Can we be so wrapped up in our own presuppositions about who we’d LIKE Jesus to be that we miss who he IS? You know what they say about ASSUME… (When we do it, “it makes an ass out of u and me”).

He is Who He Is

When the Lord called himself, “I AM”, he was referring to the fact that He is in the moment. He is now. He is what we need. But perhaps He was also referring to the fact that He is who He is, not who we expect Him to be… We are not the shapers of God’s identity, but we are the creation to whom He reveals himself. I cannot define God, because He defines himself.

So don’t put God in a box—expect to find Him in unexpected ways and places… And while you’re at it, set aside your assumptions about church. Enter church as a suffering servant rather than as a sanctified saint. Stop being judgmental about the judgmental. Look at the man who was pierced for our transgressions. For my money, he was the Messiah who came to deliver not just Israel from occupation, but all of us from enemy territory. But don’t take my word for it; get to know Jesus. Then decide for yourself.

Rumination on Expectation

In a world of independent rights, here’s a disturbing thought:
God is always WHO HE IS, whether you like it or not.
What if He turns out to be much more than you expected?
When we reach the Judgment Day, will you be unprotected?
What if, in the Kingdom, we are standing there like fools,
Just wishing we had got to know the king of Kings, who rules?
Perhaps you don’t believe in God; But what if He’s really there?
What’s his personality? And should you even care?
If you have never talked to God before, consider this:
It might be good to get to know him just the way He is.

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

It’s Mother’s Day Again: Bittersweet Reflections

I was born on Mother’s Day, 1954. People always say “how sweet”, and I know in some ways it was, but I imagine it was something of an ordeal for my Mama. When we celebrate birthdays, we need to remember that our mom did all the work; we just showed up. (That’s why my favorite birthday greeting is “Way to go, YOUR MOM!”) But I digress… Every few years May the ninth falls on Mother’s Day, but it varies according to Leap Year. This year I am one day away, so I guess I will celebrate my birth along with all those amazing moms NEXT year…

A Bumpy Beginning

When I was born in Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, my dad was off training to fly jets, and my mother was in San Antonio caring for my 19 month old sister waiting to have me. Her parents helped I’m sure, but it must have been a lonely and vulnerable time for her. Growing up, she told me numerous times how close to death I was at birth, how I had been saved for a reason.

Today, as I live in a world affected by war, greed, and the the Corona virus, I am still reflecting upon what that reason might be. I was an RH baby, which today is a relatively minor blood disorder that can be treated in utero. It was apparently pretty major 68 years ago. I almost died at birth. To save me, they had to literally replace my blood with hers and transfuse her blood into me. My Mama always said that they told her I wasn’t going to make it more than once, but that I pulled through only by a miracle.

I also had a double hernia, along with some other issues, and what it added up to was a long, long Mother’s Day for Myrl. (Probably a long several days.) She was energetic and spunky, though, and we made it. Myrl Jean Zuercher was born in Waco in 1932, and was adopted by Fay and Emmett Zuercher. Emmett worked for Maverick-Clarke, and Fay’s family were prosperous merchants who owned Staffel’s Feed Stores. They adopted and raised two girls: Connie, who died in a car wreck at a tragically young age, and my mama Myrl.

Football Sweetheart

Mother's Day

She was cute and vivacious, a cheerleader who was named Football Sweetheart for the Alamo Heights mules. Years later she could still get into her cheerleading uniform. She was nick-named “Speedy” in high school, and I was always told it was because she drove fast, but I think it was more because she was kinda “fast” and liked to party. She was artistic and funny and cute as a button.

Mixed Feelings

Perhaps because Mama struggled with alcoholism, particularly later in life (she died from liver failure/psirrhosis in 1984), I have probably focused over the years too much on her demons and issues, and I used to think that she perhaps didn’t love me because there were times I couldn’t depend on her. A ten year old brain often doesn’t see much context, and of course I assumed that because she wasn’t always around, and I lived at my grandparents sometimes that I was the problem, and had not been good enough to make Mama love me. But I know now that she loved me deeply, and that she loved me the very best that she could.

Up until several years ago, I had never really given her credit for the many wonderful things she brought to my life– love and family, laughter and personality. She was almost 53 when she died, not long after holding our first daughter, and she left us too soon. I used to resent having to share my birthday with Mother’s Day every few years, but now I know it’s an honor. This year I am not sharing my birthday with actual Mother’s Day (we’re just a day off). But, I am thinking of you, Mama, and will raise a glass of wine (yes, I have put those demons far behind) not just in your memory but in your honor.

Back in the day, when my dad was off flying jets and you were in the military hospital alone, you went through a lot of stress for me and because of me, and I am thankful. I am surrounded by beautiful, caring Moms in my family, and they are part of your legacy because they are part of my life.

My sister is a loving mom and grandmother; my wife and daughters and daughter-in-law are wonderful, caring Moms who share your sense of fun and zest for life. I often feel your presence in them just as I also see it reflected back at me when I look in the mirror. I am so much like you, and I’m grateful for that. This Mother’s Day, may you rest as peacefully as the South Texas hill country, where birds sing, gentle breezes blow, and the pace is soothingly slow. I hope to see you again.

To all you wonderful Moms out there, happy Mother’s Day! May God bless you richly with love and laughter, and may your kids be as good as you taught them to be.

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

Blessing Means Good Things Happen. What Do Bad Things Mean?

It has to be a blessing when good things happen to us, right? What do you call it when bad things happen to us?
[Job said] “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:21-22, NIV). “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10, NIV).

A Book Full of Hard Truths

The story of Job is full of things that are difficult to understand, much like life sometimes… Job was an upright, blameless man who loved God and shunned evil. Satan asked for and received permission to test Job’s love for God. He claimed that Job only loved God because he was protected from misfortune. God allowed the devil to test Job using tragedy and misfortune. Satan then destroyed all that Job had, claiming not just his worldly goods but the lives of his children as well.

Job’s three “friends” came around to counsel him, and they relied upon the conventional wisdom that said misfortune only happened to those who sinned. And really, don’t most of us think that we are somehow to blame for random bad things that happen to us? That there is some sort of vigilante justice loose in the universe, “karma” that brings evil upon those who commit evil?

With Friends Like These…

When something bad happens, don’t we cry out, “What have I done to deserve this?!” Job stubbornly refused to confess his sin (he actually was upright and blameless in this mess), and refused to blame God. Even his wife told him to “curse God, and die!” Yet he held on to his faith.

The story of Job is written primarily to countermand the idea that bad things happen only to those who do bad things. The assumption that anyone who has suffered misfortune or impairment must have done something to deserve it. Now, yes, there is cause and effect, and yes, sometimes actions have consequences, but Job teaches that not every tragedy happens because we deserve it.

The X Factor

Evil can happen because we live in a fallen world where there is no guarantee of safety. Satan roams this world as a spiritual terrorist, randomly causing bad things to happen in the hope that he will disturb any notion of truth, faith or love that may exist. If the Great Deceiver can use tragedy (or even cause and effect) to get someone to blame God or deny Him, then the devil wins.

Destruction is Satan’s handiwork, and cynicism is Satan’s playground. Those things, along with self-righteousness and being judgmental, are the tools he uses to disrupt lives and destroy testimonies. But Job refused to be cynical, and he continued to honor the Lord. He did have to realize that he was not prosperous because of his own righteousness, and that we can’t manipulate blessing by being righteous. Even in his own earthly righteousness, Job had room to grow in his understanding about the Lord, and room to be honest with his God.

blessing

Job discovered that blessing was not in his self-righteousness, and not in his stuff. Blessing ONLY comes from a sovereign God, and our growth comes from acknowledging Who. He. Is. In 42:2 Job said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” There are perhaps in this universe things “too wonderful for us to know” at this point. We will certainly know them someday, but perhaps for now, simply knowing God IS the blessing. Once we figure that out, well then stuff is just stuff.

Curse? Or Blessing?

If you’re rich, you’re blessed up. They say it, but that’s messed up!
You have to stay confessed up: just having yourself a full cup
Won’t stop you being stressed up.
People all want things from God, they just can’t get enough;
But what about when everything goes bad, and things are tough?
Stop and realize this: our blessings don’t depend on stuff.
People say “I’m blessed” if fame and fortune come to them,
But blessings don’t just come from God. The blessing, friend, is HIM.
Everything is His, and every part of every day:
God blesses us so we can give His blessings all away.
Our blessings are not stuff, but HIM. That’s all I have to say.

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

Why did Nehemiah see Himself as a Sojourner? Are YOU one?

A sojourn is a temporary stay. Not like a summer camp summer stay, but more like a temporary relocation of a permanent residence. I’m sure most of the Israelites who were carried off into captivity to Persia did not see it as their permanent home. Like Nehemiah, they longed to return to Judea. But, there were some who assimilated into Persian culture. They compromised with the Persian lifestyle and adopted Persian values. Bought the rugs, drank the bitter coffee…

Nehemiah was captive who rose to an important position in the Persian court, able to rub shoulders with kings and princes. But he still saw himself as a Sojourner who was far from home. He felt he was living behind enemy lines. He heard that Jerusalem was in ruins, and it disturbed him so much that he actually cried over the state of affairs back home. So here’s a couple of questions for you:

Where do you feel most at home? What Makes YOU Weep?

Nehemiah thought about these things, and he prayed about them as well. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.

I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:4-7, NIV)

Home, Where My Heart Lies…

Nehemiah was one of the Hebrew leaders who had been deported to Persia, far away from home and family. Even though he had gained an important position in the Persian court, he saw himself only as a sojourner in a foreign land… He thought of his homeland, longed to go there. He worried about conditions there and was filled with compassion.

sojourner

This passage describes Nehemiah’s response when he heard firsthand from his brother about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem. Apparently he was a passionate man, and the news of how citizens of Jerusalem lived in squalor and beset by enemies was very distressing to him.

Nehemiah was a great leader, and not just because he was passionate or organized or skillful. He was a great leader because his first response to hearing about the need in Jerusalem was to approach God with a humble and contrite heart. Nehemiah took ownership and responsibility for the situation in his homeland. He apparently knew about God’s character and God’s promises, and he went before the Lord 1) praising Him for who He is, and 2) confessing his own sins, as well as those committed by his family and his people.

A Different Perspective

Even though Nehemiah had risen to an important role in Artaxerxes’ court (he was cupbearer to the king), he stayed humble. Nehemiah didn’t get wrapped up in the material comfort of his position. Just imagine what it would be like to trade God’s blessing for material things. Imagine what it’s like to be distracted so much by a comfortable life among your enemies that you grew calloused to what blessings really are! (Hmmm does that sound familiar to us American Christians?)

Nehemiah did not focus on the fact that he was an important man in his temporary local surroundings. He saw himself as a sojourner in a strange land. He remembered the truly important things: who his God was, and who Nehemiah really was. Probably a good idea for the rest of us temporary sojourners who sometimes forget what’s really important, and choose to live comfortably in our Enemy’s kingdom.

Living Behind Enemy Lines

Nehemiah heard that things back home were not well kept;
When he heard that Jerusalem was broken down, he wept.
Although he was a sojourner, he served the Persian king,
And had the wealth and privilege that such appointments bring.
But Nehemiah could not eat or sleep; his thoughts would roam
To how oppressed and how distressed his people were at home.

So think of this: you live in Satan’s kingdom here on earth,
And you’re surrounded by the things that give his kingdom worth;
Will you remain here comfortably, imbedded soft and deep,
Or will you long for your true home, and look around, and weep?
Be careful what you value, and be careful where you stay,
For just like Nehemiah, you’ll be going home one day…

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

Humble Prayer is the First Step in Being Healed. Step Out!

The surest way to succeed, our culture tells us, is to be accomplished. Athletes “make history”, and business people keep score by how much money they’ve made. Leaders want power, gangbangers want respect, and everyone dreams of being able to do whatever they want to do. The Bible has a different take on being great: It says if you want to achieve real greatness, start by being humble. If you’ve never considered that, you might be surprised at how much difference that makes in the long run.

humble

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). This is a pretty well-known verse from 2 Chronicles, which came from a dream Solomon had right after he had made sacrifices and dedicated the temple. They were justifiably proud of what they had accomplished. But God appeared to Solomon and reminded him how important proper worship was, and what God required of his people.

A Different Standard

God’s word to Solomon was one of those “If—then” conditional statements that rely upon the fact that God’s character is consistent and unchanging. In this case, God is reminding Solomon (and us) that He has the authority to forgive our sins and heal our land. Since we are His children, that makes perfect sense. But what’s required of us?

First of all, we have to be God’s people, the ones who are called by his name. We need to be in a relationship with God, one that is exhibited enough externally so that others know what we are about. When people think of us, do they think of Him?

Second, we have to humble ourselves. In a world full of ego this is an attitude that we don’t see very often today. (The Special Olympics might be a place where humanity comes close to exhibiting this virtue, and there may be a couple of others. But, the world is far more calibrated to celebrating money, power and looks than it is to celebrating the efforts of humble people.)

humble

So, Humble Yourself

We are surrounded by so much ego that we think it’s right to puff ourselves up and to treat the universe as if we are at its center. Because it is what we are surrounded with, it stands to reason that we might even approach the Lord that way, too. Are you proud of anything? Then you are NOT humble. But, in the long run we figure that if we’re a little bit sorry, and tell God He is Lord, then we’ve achieved humility.

Perhaps there is more to humility than that. Back in the day, people tore their clothes, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, they wept and fasted, and they lay prostrate on the ground before the Lord. Quick check: when is the last time you humbled yourself and prayed like that? (That’s what I thought. Me neither…) And let’s not forget that humility is not an external show, but an internal transformation. We humble ourselves from the inside out, not the other way around.

Third, we need to seek God’s face. I think this implies not only seeing eye-to-eye, but being transparent, open, and intimate with God. Face to face means seeing Him as He truly is, and realizing that He sees us as we really are, without masks or excuses or spin. While we present our outward appearance to the world, the Lord sees our hearts.

Finally, He tells us to turn from our wicked ways. If enough of us humble ourselves and do this, He promises to forgive our sin and heal our land. What are your wicked ways? Do you think our land needs healing? Great news! God has already given us the prescription: when you turn from THEM, turn to HIM.

A Truly Humble Prayer

If my people, called by my name, will hear what I have to say,
And keep My word which they have heard, and come to me and pray;
If they will humble themselves, confess the wickedness they are in,
Then I will hear, and heal their land, and I’ll forgive their sin.
Come to me without delay– repentance must not wait–
For only through humility can you be truly great.

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

To Misquote Garth, Maybe You Have Low Friends in High Places

The Low-Down on High Places

In the ancient Middle East, there were worship centers called “high places”, where all kinds of pagan ritualistic mischief took place. They show up in Joshua and Judges with regularity, and there is a lot about them you probably have never thought about. The key word here is “pagan”, and it’s safe to say that it is probably hard for the average person reading this blog to imagine what went on there. (Think: really bad.) Since they revolved around polytheism, sex, and drug use, the one true God of Israel naturally condemned both them and anyone who used them.

“In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” (2 Kings 12:1-3, NIV).

Read through 2 Kings sometime. It describes a society full of treachery and deceit, with murder and betrayal on almost every page. The Kings of Israel and Judah were a dangerous bunch, and the good ones were few and far between. Joash became King over Judah at age seven, and actually had godly counsel around him. He did right in the sight of the Lord during all of his 40 year reign, but did not, however, remove the high places.

“High Places” is a somewhat euphemistic title given to the pagan worship centers out in the mountains and countryside in Israel. Idolatry, pagan rituals, illicit sacrifices, prostitution, and all kinds of carnal activity took place there in the name of “worship”.

Maybe That’s Where “Getting High” Came From?

The high places were sort of secret men’s clubs, somewhat hidden and off the beaten paths–but every man in Israel knew what went on there. Pagan rituals encouraged men to substitute a spiritual walk with sexual ecstasy as they worshipped the goddess of fertility (known variously as Ashtoreth, Ishtar, Astarte, or Asherah).

high places

The High Places were holdovers from the nations and cultures Israel defeated to take the Promised Land, and the reason they weren’t torn down is because guys liked to go and sin there. Funny how so little really changes with men over all these years… Men don’t necessarily call it worship, but they still go to particular places where the allure of feminine sexuality is powerful and seductive. Even church-going men will check their Bibles at the door to enjoy the atmosphere, just like the pagans did at the high places.

Funny thing, when you take away men’s pet sins they will insult you, call you names, and even resort to violence to keep being able to do them. When Gideon tore down his father’s Asherah pole, the Bible says “The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son [Gideon]. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.” (Judges 6:30)

Obvious Hypocrisy

Hebrew men were so involved with pagan worship that they were willing to kill to preserve it. They loved doing low things in high places… In later times, a couple of the good Kings brought reform to Israel and helped turn people back to God; but that was the exception rather than the rule; all too often the high places remained. They were sort of a secret, “pet” sin that men kept in reserve, so they could go there to “worship”.

At first glance it may seem hard to believe that any form of spiritual revival could take place when such sinful sanctuaries remained. How could Israel outwardly worship the Lord but then keep on sneaking around to wallow in such dirty sins? How could they love God but hold on to some carnal pleasure in reserve? Can you imagine? Acting religious but harboring evil desires?

Upon reflection, it’s pretty easy to see, isn’t it? This is still happening today. The rich and powerful still have secret places where they can go sin. But let’s bring it home a bit: It’s not just them, but it is US. We love God outwardly but secretly worship other, carnal, false gods. (And before you women feel too smug about men’s obvious weaknesses, remember that lusting for material things, status, or control are just as much of a carnal sin as sitting in the men’s club…)

An Easy Choice?

We may sometimes feel moved to have revival, but then we fail to remove some of our “high places”. And apparently the Lord wants us to choose between those and HIM.

What are your pet sins, your secret sanctuaries? Do you ever live outwardly as a Christian even while you are at the same time judgmental, greedy, lustful, selfish, hateful, critical, anxious, bitter, covetous or proud? The concern that crosses our minds over Israel’s idolatry is the same concern we should have about ourselves. Do you have any high places? Take an inventory of the secret sanctuaries you harbor, and consider tearing. Them. Down.

Places, High and Low

High upon the mountain, or way back among the hills
There were pagan temples where a man could get some thrills.
Temple priestesses would stimulate the men’s virility
Calling them to worship with the goddess of fertility.
Participants who worshipped there were very normal men
Who visited high places and then just went home again.

Improbable, you say? These hypocrites could not be saved,
When claiming to love God while they are secretly depraved!
And yet that is my story. I love God, and want to win,
But there are idols in my life. I harbor secret sin.
Lord, when there are idols in my heart that make you frown,
Help me feel your love, and Jesus, help me Tear. Them. Down.

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

Slavery Undone: How the Worst Day Became the Best Day Ever

Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery when he was just a teenager. It might have been better than killing him, but their actions still put him onto a difficult path in life and caused him great hardship. As time passed, Joseph overcame those hardships and grew in many ways beyond his circumstances.

When they met up years later, the brothers rightfully feared for their lives because Joseph had become a powerful man. His logical response would have been cruelty and vengeance, and very few would have blamed him if he had just done the worst things he could think of to brothers who had sold him out. But Joseph had another perspective, one that no one else saw coming…

A Different Perspective

“Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:18-20, NKJV) Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him, and for Joseph it looked like his worst day ever. But at the last minute they relented and sold him into slavery instead.

slavery

Although he began as a slave, he ended up as a powerful man in Egypt. His brothers fell on hard times, and when they traveled to Egypt seeking help, they unwittingly wound up under his authority. The story of Joseph could have easily been one of righteous vengeance. If he had reflected the cultural and moral values of his day, Joseph would have sought to make his brothers pay for what they had done. It would have only been logical for him to take out his anger upon them, and I don’t imagine anyone would have questioned his right to vengeance.

A Larger Plan

After all, he rose to a position of prominence in Egypt, and became a man with power and resources. After years of separation, his brothers found themselves far from home in Egypt, totally at his mercy. They feared the worst, that he would exact his rightful revenge upon them. Instead, he offered them grace because he believed God had a larger plan.

Joseph’s response was another example of the difference between man’s way and God’s way. His answer offers perspective for us when bad things happen in a fallen world. We don’t always see it right away, but God can redeem even the worst things to accomplish something good.

Romans 8:28 says that He works “all things together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say that only good will happen, or that all things will be ok. It doesn’t even say He will do it automatically for everyone.

Processing Differently

The secret of this oft-quoted verse is the same as the motivation behind Joseph’s statement to his brothers. It says that when you love God, and see yourself as called according to His purpose, you are able to process bad circumstances differently. You can operate in faith that God will turn trials into patience, bad circumstances into intimacy with Him and evil into good. That’s what Joseph believed. It’s also what Paul, James, and Peter taught in the early church.

As the foremost example of this, God took what is arguably the very worst day in human history (the day Christ was crucified) and turned it into the very best day in history (the day all men could be freed from the penalty of sin and redeemed!). Joseph may have been sold into slavery, but the Lord redeemed him for good. Isn’t the same thing true of us? We may have been trapped in the slavery of sin and death, but the Lord redeemed us out of bondage at the cross.

If God is able to transform the WORST day in history to the BEST day ever, then maybe it makes sense to trust Him with whatever happens to you today as well.

Tables Turned

Joseph’s jealous brothers almost had a plot to slay him;
Instead they sold him as a slave, just thinking to betray him.
When he rose to power, and they fell into his hand,
He could have exercised revenge by giving a command.
He told them, “Yes I know you didn’t treat me as you should,
But what you meant for evil, God has transformed into good.
It is the Lord Himself whose grace has given us this chance
To see His hand at work for us in every circumstance.”

The Lord, whose grace has given us the chance to live forever,
Has offered us eternal love no earthly thing can sever,
And turned the very worst of days into the Best. Day. Ever.

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