Truth is Being Assaulted Every Day. So What?

Yesterday we focused on “I am the WAY” in John 14:6; today we will look at “I am the TRUTH”, which is a little more complicated these days than it was when this was written… Truth today is deemed to be almost totally subjective, and there are fewer commonly accepted universal truths than ever before in my lifetime.

Veracity today is treated much too casually, and we are lied to all too often. Our perception of truth is colored far too much by culture, advertising, and media. In a year of confusion about the pandemic, when misinformation seemed more common than truth, why does this matter? Here are a few random scatter-shot thoughts about that:

Sheer Volume

First, think about advertising, which is ALL slanted to try to influence you or change your opinion. “The average American is exposed to 500 to 1,000 commercial messages a day (Arens 1999). That’s anywhere from 182,500 to 365,000 commercial messages that a person will view this year alone.” (And that’s OLD research, so it’s a very conservative number, what with internet banners and Facebook ads bombarding you as you surf online or use your phone…) We see, read and hear hundreds of lies, Every. Single. Day. Do you think that doesn’t blur the line even just a little bit?

Living out the Truth

Second, and totally unrelated, they called basketball player Paul Pierce “the Truth” because he was able to score against anybody. Shaquille O’Neil gave him that nickname after he dropped 42 points on the Lakers. Pierce was a solid player, and he could indeed score. But for the rest of us, the truth is this: if you’re going to identify someone as the Truth, it should probably relate to something bigger than basketball.

The name doesn’t make the man as much as the man makes the name. Even though he has my respect, knowing Paul Pierce (the Truth) won’t make me free. However, knowing the Man who made this claim in John 14:6 certainly has (Free from worry, free from guilt, free from hate). Jesus understood that a life unsupported by truth is pursuit of an illusion. Living a lie only results in dead ends and disappointments.

Can You Handle THIS?

Third, I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous line in “A Few Good Men”: “You want the truth?! You can’t handle the truth!!” (Kind of ironic when you think of the fact that he is an actor pretending to be a Marine, but we believed it…) If the absolute truth was presented to you, could you handle it? Would you really even want to hear it?

truth

And finally, Zig Ziglar used to ask an audience, “How many of you read the newspaper every day?” (Lots of hands went up). Then he said, “How many of you believe everything you read in the newspaper is true?” (Almost no hands) “Ok, how many of you believe everything in the Bible is true?” (Lots of hands) “How many of you read the Bible every day?” (Almost no hands) Point made. Then think about those thousands of media messages you absorb; how much ‘less than true’ information hits your brain there every day? With all media combined—you have commercials, politics, Facebook posts, magazines, the news…. Really, there’s an amazing amount of stuff.

No Counterfeits

How well do you know the truth? How much time do you spend getting to know it? In Politics, in Social Media, or even in commercials, every side seems to have an agenda that obscures truth and promotes something else.

In all of the subtle (and blatant) misrepresentations in commercials (a deodorant is so good that it makes girls attack you, or all beer drinkers are fit, active people), in news (whatever happened to objective journalists?) and in politics (Politicians provide spin to “recalibrate” actual truth), we totally forget John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth”: maybe it would make sense to listen to what he taught. Fact-check JESUS. Seek the truth. Live by it,and be free.

Truth Under Fire

Today you’ll see a thousand things that really just aren’t true;
Facebook Ads and stores will try to sell their stuff to you.
Out of all the messages and ads that you will see,
Remember, no one ever said, “The Spin will make you free.”
So out of all the things you’ll hear, and stuff that you will read,
Just get to know the Truth, and He will make you free indeed.

To purchase my newest 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

Even Bad Sheep Need a Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11) There is a lot to consider in this short verse. What all do shepherds do? What is their role in tending the sheep? In Biblical times, shepherds provided leadership and protection for sheep, who were too vulnerable to make it alone out there in the real world. Common sense tells us that their job was to keep the flock together, to gather strays who wandered off, and to protect them from predators.

sheep

But Wait, There’s More…

But a shepherd’s role was also defined by the characteristics of his flock. He had to understand his sheep and guide them in such a way that they could overcome their natural tendencies. The analogy Christ is making works because there are so many similarities between sheep and, well, us

First of all, sheep are not very bright. They are selfish and appetite-centered. They don’t practice good crop management, since they will eat a field down to nothing, leaving barren soil in their wake. The shepherd would counter that tendency by leading them to various pastures in a rotation so that they could find enough grass in the appropriate season. Sheep don’t drink from running water, so the shepherd would guide them to ponds or “still waters”. Sheep as individuals will wander off and get into trouble. They are very vulnerable to predators.

sheep killer

Protection from Predators

When he was questioned about his ability to confront Goliath, David told Saul, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36) A sheep who followed his shepherd enjoyed protection and green pastures. Peter was probably thinking of that when he warned us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Jesus intentionally contrasted the shepherd with the thief, who came to “kill, steal and destroy.”

Has anything in your life ever been “killed, stolen, or destroyed”? As members of the flock, we live in a world that employs numerous ways to accomplish those three things. What kills your joy, steals your time, or destroys your peace of mind? The Good Shepherd promises to lead you to safety and peace. Not all leaders do that today. Be careful what you follow. Be careful WHO you follow.

In the verse just before, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.” The good shepherd wants your life to be more peaceful, joyful, and full. The thief wants to tear it down. Are you willingly following the good shepherd? He might just take you to a good spot.

The Shepherd

The world can be a dangerous place.
So many dangers that we face
When we have wandered far from grace
Are things the fallen world employs
To break our hearts, and steal our joys;
Be careful out there, girls and boys:
For we, like sheep can go astray!
If only someone led the way,
And took us where the grass is deep,
Enough for even selfish sheep…
“I’m the Good Shepherd” said a man,
So I will follow him while I can,
Because I’d really like to see
If there’s a possibility of living life abundantly.
So far he hasn’t lied to me, this Shepherd out of Galilee…

To purchase my newest 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

“I am the Door”. What Did Jesus MEAN by That?

The third I AM statement we’ll consider is, “I am the door.” (John 10:9, NKJV) This somewhat curious claim by Jesus is interesting. Is it an analogy? A metaphor? A literal statement? What does Jesus mean? Is he saying he is made of wood? Could he be talking about the door to a sheep pen where the shepherd counts and secures his sheep, locking them away from the predators who would devour them? Is he referring to Proverbs’ claim that wisdom sits at the door?

door

The Answer Is D, All of the Above

The Old Testament often refers to men going “in and out”, inferring that their public lives were visible depending on which doors they went through and what they did. Perhaps Jesus was calling attention to his values and way of life… Or, could he be referring to the Passover in Egypt, where blood was smeared on the door posts to offer protection from death? Could he have meant the gates through which the king of glory would come in? Did he mean that He was the true doorway to God? Yes, yes, and yes.

The  Hebrew way of thinking would embrace all possible applications of what the door represented; And in that culture and that time, the Jewish mind would also have seen the door as a portal which was actually representative of a man’s life. They observed where a man went and what he did as the indicators of his character and substance.

A Deeper Dive Into Doors

In Deuteronomy 31:2, Moses said, “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in.” David prayed in Psalm 139:3, “You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways.” Achish complimented David in 1 Samuel 29:6 by saying, “Surely, as the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight”

The OT often spoke of a man’s “going out and coming in”, meaning that a man’s private righteousness should be consistent with the face he wore in public. Apparently that description was still common in Jesus’ day, since Luke described how the disciples began to trust Paul after his conversion in this way: “So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.” (Acts 9:28) Paul was “doing life” with them, and they watched him carefully.

Many Doors, One Choice

It was only by observing and comparing a man’s private life and his public one that you could truly know who he was. What doors does he open? Where does he go when he goes out? What do you observe at the portal of a man’s heart? I think Jesus was tapping into that whole line of thinking. He provided us an alternative to all of the doors in the world.

I think it’s instructive that Jesus said, “I am THE door.” He did not say he was “A” door, a portal from among many that we could choose. He was very specific. Jesus offered no alternative doors, no other options. He boldly claimed to be the one logical point of access to God. If that claim is true, it makes all of the other things about his metaphor true as well.

When he said “I am the door”, he was offering security and protection; He was opening the storehouse of wisdom; He was shielding us from the Angel of Death; and most of all, He was standing upon his integrity and inviting you to partner with him in all of your “going out and coming in”. You can walk through a lot of doors, and stay relatively unaffected. But I warn you: if you walk through THAT door, your life will never be the same.

Which Door Do You Choose?

"Let's Make a Deal!" Was the name of the show,
And the game show host was Monte Hall;
The people guessed prices and hoped to go
To the Final Round and win it all!
And Monte's amazing salesman's voice
Would offer the possibility
Of fabulous prizes! Make your choice:
Is it door number one, or door number three?
Well, all of us here are playing that game, 
And each of us has a chance to choose; 
The world offers doors of wealth or fame, 
So tempting: what have you got to lose? 
But I'd say this: if you want something more, 
Reject the way the world keeps score, 
And listen to the man who IS the door. 
His fabulous parting gifts impart 
Eternal life--that's just the start-- 
And a chance to have a brand-new heart.
Life is real: You're not playing a part! 
So, Knock, and enter, if you're smart!

To purchase my newest 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 Light of the World: Can You Really See Without it?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)
In John’s composition, Jesus said this to the crowd who had just watched him shame the judgmental Scribes and Pharisees who brought him the woman caught in adultery… The event happened in the temple during the week of the Feast of Tabernacles, so there was a large group of religious folks looking on, both rabbis and students alike. Since the Pharisees immediately challenged him on this statement, apparently not all of them had left with the shamed rock throwers.

A Startling Announcement

Why did Jesus make this announcement right here? This “I am” statement might seem unrelated to this event, like John inserted it for emphasis, but it really makes sense if you think about it. The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration to remember God’s provision in the desert during the Exodus. It began on the first night with a festival of lights, in which pilgrims all lit lamps in their tabernacles. That mean hundreds of small tents or booths were illuminated all around the city. (It had to be a beautiful and moving sight.) If that wasn’t enough, there were also four very large candles were placed on the corners of the walls around Jerusalem for all to see.

light

There was probably one within sight of him as he taught. (You might think, how would people see a candle? But these were HUGE candles, and there weren’t any other large sources of light like we have in today’s cities. Any resident of or visitor of Jerusalem would have made an instant connection with his reference. Light versus darkness is one of the oldest archetypes for mankind. Here, Jesus calls it dramatically to everyone’s attention.

I imagine the average Festival attendee didn’t connect ALL the dots, but surely it was a seminal statement that drew their attention to the polarity that existed in their culture. Jesus was contrasting his Father and himself with the legalistic system of the Pharisees. He offered light; they walked in darkness. They emphasized law and punishment; he was pointing to celebration and life. Jesus connected himself, not to artificial man-made lights, but to God’s created light, the light of the world.

Characteristics of Light

Let’s make a couple of quick observations: First, Light dispels darkness. It helps us to see clearly and to act accordingly, in both a physical and a spiritual context. If there is something clouding your outlook, or darkening your attitude, light can brighten things up. This statement about light could have pointed Hebrew teachers back to the Shekinah Glory You remember that, right? It was God’s presence which led the children of Israel through the wilderness. Was Jesus identifying himself with God? Jesus correctly points out that light provides life. Enlightenment saved the life of the woman caught in sin. It can also save us.

Shining a Spotlight on God

The Psalms says that God’s word is a lamp that lights our path (119:9). Here among the teachers at the temple, Jesus was equating himself alone to the Word of God, which John later expressed so well in the introduction to his gospel. John said of the Word, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Getting to know the Word better is absolutely the same thing as getting to know Jesus better.

Finally, Isaiah 9:2 is talking about the coming Messiah when he says “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” When he proclaims himself to be the light of the world, Jesus is connecting the dots. Are they connected for you? Today, may light warm you, illuminate you, brighten your world, and help you see!

A Festival of Lights

Picture this: a thousand camps, the glow of candlelight, and lamps,
Without the glare of electric lights to minimize the darkest nights.
Within this glow, a statement’s hurled:
“Listen! I am the Light of the world!
Follow me, and leave your fright
of the darkest world on the darkest night…”
Men can follow, if they will, but many walk in darkness still,
Where evils in the shadows hide, with sin and egos full of pride:
Perhaps it’s time to just abide, to stop and listen to this guide,
Who said, when it was hard for us to see:
“I am the Light of the World; come, follow me!”

To purchase my newest 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

Jesus’ Seven Great “I AM” Statements, Starting With the Bread of Life

Yesterday, I mentioned that Jesus made seven great “I am” Statements in John, so here they are (based on the most classic listings): 1) I am the bread of life; 2) I am the light of the world; 3) I am the door; 4) Jesus said I am the good shepherd; 5) I am the resurrection and the life; 6) I am the way, the truth, and the life; and 7) I am the true vine. Let’s take a look at each of them to see if perhaps they can tell us something more about who He is…

More Impressive Than a Big Mac

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35, NIV) This statement was made to an adoring crowd right after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This is a miracle we take for granted a bit, but stop for a moment and try to imagine the impact it had on the people who were there. Jesus had just fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fish, and fast food was not yet available on every corner. Yes this rabbi was a pretty good preacher, but this crowd was now following him around hoping for another free meal.

bread of life

In verse 7 Philip said “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Food was not plentiful in occupied Judea, and many people lived hand-to-mouth. A miracle-working man who was able to feed a huge crowd became an instant magnet for curious crowds, and the people who had just been treated to an all-you-can-eat buffet were lining up for seconds. While the crowd is excited about another meal, Jesus redirects his followers from their stomachs to their hearts…

A Recipe for Life

The image of eating bread was certainly common enough in first-century Judea. It is one that everyone could relate to. It was a staple of life and certainly an important part of the nutritional pyramid there in Galilee. But a quick glance through Scripture reminds us that it was also a spiritual metaphor as well. It often referred to something other than what they served for lunch and dinner.

Unleavened bread had been a big part of Jewish meals since the Exodus. It was prescribed by the law of Moses, and it was part of every ceremonial meal celebrating the Passover. The connection of bread to life is something every Jewish person would have understood almost as if it had been part of their DNA.

When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he told the devil, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He is talking here again about spiritual food, just as he was pointing the crowd to eternal sustenance that will never fail. He is reminding them of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness from Exodus 16, of Melchizedek’s offering of loaves and wine in Genesis 14, of David eating the show-bread from the temple in 1 Samuel 21, and of God’s fundamental connection to everyday life (“Give us this day our daily bread”, Matthew 6:11.)

Nutrition that Matters

Jesus offered himself as spiritual food to the crowd, and challenged them to move beyond the moment into eternity. He also offers himself to us, inferring that if we come to him, we will never go hungry. Jeremiah 15:16 says much the same thing: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” What bread have you been eating lately? How’s your spiritual appetite? Have you been skipping meals? Or are you full? Perhaps it is time to sit at the feet of the Master, and eat.

Beggar’s Bread

He’s the bread of life we should eat every day;
He’s the light who helps us to find our way,
And the Door to the Kingdom that has no end:
Our Shepherd, protector, our guide and friend…
He’s the resurrection who overcame strife;
He’s surely the way, the truth, the life,
The Living Vine from whom we grow!
The Rabbi you should get to know…
He’s the Carpenter who became a Lamb,
He’s the Son of God, the Great I AM,
The One who came back from the dead
To offer us this Living Bread.
I believe every word He said.

To purchase my newest 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

A Powerful Statement in Response to an Eternal Question

Who Is This Man, the one whose birth we just celebrated at Christmas? Who is Jesus, really? As we look at testimonies about him, here’s one to consider. Most folks think Jesus was a good teacher, right? Consider what C.S. Lewis said: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

In the Eighth chapter of John, Jesus made a statement that defied human logic. If his statement was false, it truly deserves skepticism; but if it was true, it kinda forces you to make a choice about who Jesus really was. Take a look at it for yourself and decide…

The Pharisees Did the Math…

[In a conversation with the Pharisees] Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:54-58, NIV)

statement

This is a most powerful “I am” statement from Jesus that is NOT usually listed as one of the seven great “I am” statements (which we will talk about over the next few days). Here, he asserts not only connection with and validation from his Father, but also a present-tense existence BEFORE Abraham. When he said this, the Pharisees took up stones to cast them in judgment. This was heresy! How could this Galilean Rabbi claim to be equal with God, or use the name of the Almighty? If it wasn’t true, then it was extremely offensive to them, and it should also be offensive to us.

They were shocked and offended that Jesus would say such a thing. Jesus claimed he existed in the time of Abraham. How could that be? No mere man could say that he had lived hundreds of years ago! To falsely make this claim is to commit perjury or blasphemy; to believe this if it were not true is lunacy. This statement is a preposterous claim, so ask yourself: was Jesus immoral or crazy? Or perhaps you could just consider a third alternative: was he just stating the facts?

The Unspeakable Truth

Jesus uses the same statement here about identity that he did when he spoke with Moses: “I AM”. To the Pharisees, this claim directly tied Jesus to the name that YHWH used, an unthinkable thing to do. It links Jesus to the unspeakable name of God. And why on earth did God call Himself “I am”? Why do you think God identified himself this way?

Here are three things from this statement to consider about the nature of God: (which would be true about Jesus if they are true about God.) 1. He is the eternal God who transcends time, who pre-existed it and presides over it. The fact that Jesus Christ transcended time gives us assurance that we will, too. (I AM going to heaven…)

NOW is the Time

2. He is in the moment with you– not stuck in the past, or even pie in the sky when you die by and by– but NOW. He comes to us NOW, wherever and however we are. It can be said that the only time you truly experience heaven on earth is when you pray, because in those moments you are connected to the eternal Father, transported into heavenly time as long as you abide in Him.

This statement claims that every bit of relationship you build with him here is eternal. It will outlive earthly time and connect you with him both here and in heaven. You don’t have to wait for eternal life because yours has already started!

And consideration number 3: He is the God who knows us and meets our needs… In a world full of temporary distractions and broken promises, He tells us, “I am sufficient for you”. Do you need forgiveness? That’s what I am! Do you need love? That’s who I am! Do you need encouragement? That’s what I am. Whatever you truly need… I AM.

An Eternal Statement

The Pharisees took up stones because
When Jesus told them who he was,
They didn’t believe, and couldn’t see
How such a thing could ever be.
The sheer impossibility
Suggested immortality
And, if untrue, was blasphemy.
They picked up stones with hateful scorn—
They knew when Abraham was born!
Yet Jesus said of Abraham,
“Before his life and birth, I AM.”

He must be mad to make this claim;
They grabbed their rocks, they all took aim—
But then they didn’t follow through;
No rock was thrown; no judgment flew…
It was as if they somehow knew
That everything he said was true.
If that’s the case, friend, what about you?
If Jesus was God, what will you do?
Since Jesus was God, what will you do?

To purchase my newest 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

Winning the Lottery Would Solve All My Problems! (The “If Only” Game)

The recent $1.5 billion lottery ticket ( https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mega-millions-jackpot-one-point-five-five-billion-dollars/ ) got me to thinking, “what’s it like to win the lottery”? It’s a question Moses might have considered when he ran into something very unusual out in the wilderness, tending sheep.

You remember that story, right? Moses, the baby raised in Pharaoh’s house, had killed an abusive Egyptian guard and had run away to become a shepherd. He was just doing his job in a remote area when he saw a curious sight. He may not have realized he had just won the theological lottery, but he ended up having a conversation that changed his life.

“Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV). Have you ever stopped to wonder God introduced himself to Moses as ” I AM”? It’s a fascinating descriptor, but what exactly did God mean by that?

An Interesting Thought…

Russ Massey, my Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader in Conroe during the 90’s, shared a situation that many of us could relate to. The Texas State lottery had begun, and he said that a couple of times he and his wife had fantasized about winning the lottery… No big deal, but they thought about all the good ways they could use the money (starting with a nice tithe back to God, of course). Nancy and I have done the same thing—played the “if only” game… Wouldn’t it be great if we won the lottery? If only we won the lottery, then life would be great!

lottery winners

If Only

If only we had that money, we could pay off the kids’ mortgages, set up some education funds for grandchildren, and generally provide many, many benefits for those close to us. (And yes, some of those benefits might come OUR way as well…) We could retire easily, we could have things, we could travel, and we would be set. The Lottery could solve all of our problems…

“If only” seems like a pretty innocent exercise, one that most of us have played from time to time. But as Russ shared that scenario with us, he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said we play that game and fantasize about something like that for many reasons, not just because we’d like to win the lottery.

If only I got that promotion, if only we lived in a different neighborhood, if only my spouse were a better person, THEN life would be better. Russ said, “Isn’t it strange that we never put God in that blank after “if only”? What if we said, “If only, GOD,”? Would life be better then? He went on to say that when we play the “if only, ______” game, then whatever we use to fill in the blank, that is god to us. We may not consciously worship it, but it is. It’s the things we think of to solve all our problems! Kinda makes you stop and think about what we put into that blank and why.

A Sneaky Form of Idolatry

Russ finished his thoughts by connecting some important dots. God called himself “I AM”, which fits exactly into the “if only” game. We say, “Lord, if only I had what I need.” God says, “I AM” what you need. “Lord, if only I felt loved…” I AM love. “Lord, if only I knew the way…” I AM the way. “Lord, if only I had more of this or that…” I AM all you need.

The logic behind Russ’s conclusion is perfect. When we try to plug temporal things into our lives to complete ourselves, we stay incomplete. Moses objected to accepting God’s call because he felt unworthy. As he told God how he (a murderer and a fugitive) was not adequate or willing to lead, God understood. In fact, the Lord had already countered all of Moses’ objections when He told him His Name. Can’t speak well? I AM going to provide for that. Afraid of being ill-equipped? I AM sufficient.

What about you? What are your objections to serving God with all of your heart and soul? Lord, work and the kids keep me busy; just wait until I retire! Lord, if only I were a better speaker… If only I had more time… If only I were better prepared! God would say to you the very thing He said to Moses: “Whatever you need… I AM.” Don’t wait on the lottery. Just Go.

I Will Because I AM

Moses saw a burning flame and asked the Lord about His name:
“I AM”, said God, but Moses asked if he was worthy for the task.
Speaking, he objected to the work that God expected:
“Oh Lord, he said, I’m just a man with halting speech! Without a plan!”
And God said, “Moses, Listen to Me: Whatever you need, I AM.”
See, Moses didn’t calculate how much the great I Am was great!
He focused on his lack of skill, but God told him to say, “I will”!
“When people grumble or resent you, tell them that I AM has sent you!
If people say you are a sham, tell them that you serve I AM!”
Moses learned God’s mystery. The rest, of course, is history.

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