Good Is the Enemy of Great: The Man Who Liked His Stuff

A Hard Choice

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21, NIV)

good vs great

Common Observations

There are several subtle things about Mark’s portrayal of this man’s encounter with Jesus that make it my favorite. Each of the three synoptic gospels offers the same story but include slightly different details. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, which means they were “seen with the same eyes”). Scholars agree that they used common source material, or were perhaps aware of whichever gospel was written first (most think it was probably Mark) and borrowed from it to reach their own intended audience.

In this story, all agree that this good man had great wealth. He approached Jesus sincerely asking about what he needed to inherit eternal life, and yet he went away disappointed. Matthew 19:20 notes that the man was young; Luke 18:18 identifies him as a ruler. Only by combining these details are we informed that this is the story of “the rich young ruler,” perhaps one of the best known stories about Jesus during his ministry.

The Details That Tell the Story

A few observations taken from Mark’s account: 1) The man ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees. There was a sense of urgency about his quest, and he exhibited humility in front of Jesus. Is there anything in your life that should prompt the same type of approach? Should you have a sense of urgency about taking a question to the Master, or hearing his response? Should you humble yourself before him?

2) He called Jesus good, and Jesus challenged him to evaluate where goodness came from, reminding him that God alone is good and that accepting his compliment was tantamount to accepting equal status with the Almighty. All goodness springs from the character of God, and while Jesus did not deny the truth of the man’s declaration, he did point out exactly WHY he could be considered good.

Horizontal Versus Vertical

3) Jesus lists the “horizontal” commandments—the ones dealing with other men—and omits ONE. It’s interesting, because the one he omits is “Thou shalt not covet”, which happens to be precisely where this man’s heart issue lies. When the man answers, he is portrayed as honest and sincere, but perhaps he noticed what Christ omitted and could see what was coming next… It is said that good is the worst enemy of best. It is when we can justify settling for what we already have that we lose motivation to do better. Do we sometimes settle for how things are when greater possibilities are just beyond us? This young man had a chance to be great. He settled for possessions instead.

This man appeared to be successful, and his actions seem to indicate a spiritual hunger, an attempt to please God. But appearances can be deceiving, and he had a flaw that was about to be recorded for all time. Before you feel too smug about this ruler’s weakness, what commandment do you think Jesus might have omitted if he was talking to YOU?

Would it have been coveting, or murder, or adultery, or lying, or committing fraud, or disrespecting your parents? No matter how moral we act, and no matter how good we have been, there is always a place or two where we are vulnerable. There are always a couple of secret sins we are willing to put ahead of God on our priority list. What is your weakness? What do you love more than God?

That Look

4) “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus didn’t look at him in judgment, and he didn’t look down his nose at him in self-righteous condemnation, but he offered him a heartfelt invitation in sincere love. That’s a telling part of the story because it applied to Jesus then, and it applies to him today. In the midst of our sin, Jesus looks at us exactly the same way.

Wealth Versus Wealth

5) When Jesus invited the man to follow him, Mark says, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” If you are an American Christian, you are at least close to being in the same position. Compared to the rest of the world, you have great wealth. According to the New York Times, “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants.” Each of us who is fortunate enough to have the kind of stuff we take for granted in this country should ask ourselves, truly, do I love God more than I love my stuff?

In the rich young ruler’s case, “he went away sad because he had great wealth.” For him, the good life was his primary obstacle to the great life. Don’t be that guy. Think carefully about what you have and what you COULD have; and go away happy instead of sad.

That First Step, Though…

All possessions, all your stuff
Will never ever be enough
To fill the place inside of you
That asks “Oh Lord, what must I do?”
Jesus looks into your eyes,
And pauses before he replies:
“There’s only one thing that you lack,
One thing that you are holding back;
If you will give that thing to me,
My child, then I will set you free.”

You hear the love in Jesus’ voice.
You realize you have a choice
To measure treasure differently–
On earth, or in eternity.
For just a moment, time stands still;
It’s time to exercise your will:
What choices will you make today?
How will you feel when you walk away?
It’s time to speak. What will you 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

Consider This: The Best Arguments Have No Words…

“For consider him [Jesus] that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3 KJV) The uniqueness of Jesus is often overlooked, believe it or not. His parables and teachings have a timeless quality, and have been woven into the common wisdom of many of the world’s cultures.

Most people credit Jesus with being a prophet or a great teacher, apparently without knowing anything else about him. But when you truly consider what he said and taught about God’s love, he is unique among all the rabbis, teachers, and wise men who ever lived. The writer of Hebrews touches upon it here.

Only two Groups

Two things about him stand out in this verse. First, there are only two groups mentioned here: 1) sinners; and 2) Jesus. He is not listed with the sinners, but he is in a different category, listed as the one who endured their contradictions against himself. He stands apart from sin, the man who broke no law. Consider our leadership today and even those who lived in all past generations. Can you think of another public figure from history that meets this criteria? Who even comes close?

It’s not just the writer of Hebrews who makes this assertion. Jesus’ best friend, John, makes it too! So did the men who followed him: Peter, Matthew, Mark and Luke. So did a Jewish zealot named Saul, who began his career by persecuting Jesus’ followers. The fact that everyone close to Jesus claimed that he was sinless is pretty unique, and sets Jesus apart from, well… everyone.

consider leaders

A Ludicrous Claim?

Would my wife or any of my close friends claim I was sinless? (Quit laughing!) How about yours? Would they say YOU are sinless? (Ha! Who’s laughing now?) And yet men who were around Jesus every day for years comment upon his behavior in ways that haven’t applied to any other man or woman. In fact, they COULDN’T apply. But consider this: In 1 Peter 2:22 Peter says of Jesus, “He committed no sin”.

John says  “In him [Jesus] was no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

Paul, who originally persecuted followers of Jesus as heretics, says this about him in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He knew no sin.”

Even the man who sentenced him to death (Pontius Pilate) said, “I find no fault in Him”. The fact that eyewitnesses, friends and even enemies claim he was sinless make Jesus very unique indeed.

consider Christ

Consider This

Second, there is power in his being an example. The writer of Hebrews says, “Consider him.” The motivational power of a good example is huge in life, and it’s natural that we think about Jesus’ life and find encouragement when times are tough, “lest we be wearied and faint in our minds”. Are you stressed? Can the world be rude and uncaring at times? Don’t you hate driving with all of those careless, distracted, selfish people on the road? Then, “Consider him”.

Consider the man who blessed the children, healed the sick and caused the lame to walk. Think about him, who spoke wisdom and taught us that we should love one another. Consider him who bore the cross to Calvary, “lest you be wearied and faint in your mind”. Does anybody dispute that if you meditate and reflect upon the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, it will make you a better person? Who in this world can disparage his life and teachings, or the example that he set? After all, he gave his very life so that we might live.

Follow His Example; BE an Example

But don’t forget that being an example creates a legacy and a standard for followers to live up to. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, you should also love one another.” He used himself as an example of how to love! And then he told us to do it ourselves! Not only did he present himself as our example, he challenged us to BE one as well. So here’s the question: What are you doing that’s exemplary? And who might be watching you, encouraged by your persistence, your habits, and your attitude? Consider them, too.

Consider Him

The greatest sermon ever heard
Had no alliteration;
You didn’t hear a single word
Of grand pontification.
There weren’t three points, a poem, a prayer–
Perhaps some teaching here and there,
But this: a life of love to share,
A cross that He alone could bear,
A servant’s heart beyond compare
Who counted the cost, who saved the lost,
Who stills the storms for the tempest-tossed,
And lived without a sin or vice to be a perfect sacrifice;
He gave himself so we could be secured:
Consider Christ, and all that He endured…

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

Which Way is Right? Don’t all Paths Lead to the Same Place?

What’s Right?

In college I had a bumper sticker that was an index finger pointing upwards that said, “One Way”. Today, many people would dispute that claim as preposterous! Is there only one way to heaven? Do Christians have any right to be exclusive about heaven? The Bible says this: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, KJV) This is a singular statement that was made to explain a radical event.

one way

Actions Speak Louder

In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a beggar who had been lame from birth, telling him in words that have been memorialized in a well-known children’s song, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The Sanhedrin (whom Peter addressed as the “rulers of the people and elders of Israel”) arrested them and held them overnight. Then they questioned Peter about how they had healed this man.

He said (vv 9-10), “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” Peter then concluded that salvation could also only occur through Jesus.

The Reality Argument

Now, if Peter’s statement was just the ranting of a religious zealot, the Sanhedrin could have dismissed him; but since the man who had been healed was standing by and watching the proceedings, they didn’t know what to do. So, they held a private council. (Acts 3:16-17)

“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Of course Peter and John refused to do such a thing. Luke says, “After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.”

Testimony counts

Three things: 1) What have you seen God do in your life that you cannot help but speak of it? Don’t give in to social pressure, don’t hesitate because you might feel too pushy. Talk freely about what God has done for you. Your perspective is legitimate testimony about who God is, and how He has impacted your life. Testify!

2) Giving financially is good thing; but don’t ever let silver and gold take the place of personal ministry. When you let God work through you, it will bless others, and it will bless you. And to contradict Jerry Maguire, it has nothing to do with money. Show me the LOVE and you can show me the WAY.

He’s Hard to Discount or Dismiss

3) There is no other way to salvation other than Jesus. He either is the real deal or He isn’t. Let that sink in for a minute. The world around you will try to bend that truth, water it down, and replace it with possibilities that seem more inclusive and less restrictive. In our current climate of cultural and intellectual relativism, we are being told that whatever you feel or believe is ok, as long as it works for you. I think that’s a great philosophy as long as you can ignore the person and work of Jesus Christ; but if he was real, and if what he taught was true, there is no other way.

which way

The world will offer substitute salvation through doing good, following a charismatic or powerful leader, attaining Nirvana, obeying the law, or achieving spiritual enlightenment. All of those approaches have some merit, but none of them provide salvation. They are cheap imitations of the real thing. Am I being narrow-minded by rejecting those other beliefs? Yes.

The Need For Narrow-Mindedness

If you were honest, you’d admit that sometimes you HAVE to be narrow. You can’t just ignore traffic laws and remain safe while driving. Yes, the laws restrict you from racing through red lights or driving the wrong way onto the freeway, but they are designed to keep everyone safer on the road. It is only by giving up your freedom to drive however you want to that you can drive safely. Go the wrong way down a one-way entrance ramp, and you can get yourself killed! One way is safer.

If you were dying from a tumor that required a delicate and life-threatening operation, would you prefer a surgeon who said, “Oh, there are lots of ways we can treat your symptoms, and we can perform a number of medical procedures on you that will be good for you. They all provide help, and really they all end up at the same place.”

Or do you want a surgeon who says, “We have located the problem and I am going to perform surgery to remove it. Now, we have to exclude all of these other treatments because, while they might provide some benefit, we have to address this life-threatening disease in a radical way.” Being narrow-minded is a good thing when there is adequate proof to exclude other alternatives.

Evaluate the Evidence

4) The Sanhedrin had proof standing right before their very eyes, but were blinded by their own assumptions and positions of power. Don’t be that guy. These other alternatives have various ways they sell their solutions, but only Christianity has Jesus, Grace, and the Son of God’s substitutional sacrifice on our behalf. If someone can come up with something better than Jesus, I’ll follow it. But the more I know him, the more I know he was right when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” One Jesus. One way.

A Personal Account

I was the guy who sat and begged
With shriveled, useless twisted legs,
Hoping passers-by would see
And throw a coin or two at me...
But Peter stopped amidst the crowd
And turned to me, and said real loud,
With words that boomed out big and bold:
"I have no silver coin, nor gold,
And nothing from the world of men,
But this: Rise up and walk again!

The power of God has been revealed;
In the name of Jesus Christ, be healed!"
And thus this fisherman proclaimed, 
That I, who had from birth been lame,
Can stand before you and avow
That I am proudly walking now!
The leaders told them once or twice 
To stop proclaiming Jesus Christ,
Because it caused them an affront.
But they would not; I hope they don't!
And As for me, I know I won't.

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

Do You Want to Know What Heaven is Really Like? Then Read This

Where Everybody Wants to Go

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody really knows what it’s going to be like. If you do the math, only one person has ever been qualified to talk about what it will be like because he came from there. His teachings abound with references to heaven, and they are not about harps, angels, and streets of gold. In fact, most of them–like this one–should make us scratch our heads and think:

What It’s Really Like

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” (Matthew 25:14-19 NKJV)

So, Where is Heaven, Anyway?

What on earth did Jesus mean about heaven?
In these verses, as He often does in the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. It was a major theme in his preaching (see the Beatitudes, and read through his parables), and is certainly highlighted in Matthew, where Jesus used the phrase more than 50 times. Some scholars think that “heaven” is actually interchangeable with “God”, but that Jewish sensitivity to using God’s name prevented Jesus from using it unnecessarily. Since Jesus did occasionally use the phrase “kingdom of God”, I think when he says the Kingdom of Heaven, he is pointing us to something specific.

The Only Eye Witness

Consider this: of all the people who ever lived, Jesus alone is qualified to make distinctions about heaven. In all of history, He’s the ONLY man who ever lived who had been there BEFORE he came to earth. His Father lived there, and even while on earth, Jesus spent time with him every day. And when Jesus tells us about the kingdom of heaven, he is talking about a real place with a real King, and he is reminding us that we are subjects in that kingdom. So, what does that mean?

In this somewhat unusual story, Jesus describes how subjects of the king are given talents and expected to invest them wisely. Wait, what?! Does that mean heaven is all about investments, banking, and ROI? What will it be like to live in God’s kingdom? What observations can we make from this passage?

When Does it Start?

First, it appears that our citizenship in heaven begins here and now. Second, there is accountability in the kingdom; and third, all of the citizens of heaven are given assets to be accountable FOR. As you reflect on your daily activities, what resources have you been given? Would you say that you are bearing fruit? Are you creating a profitable return?

heaven investment

Your Journey Has Already Started

In terms of heaven, how do we apply this story? I think a good way to start is to understand the benefits and responsibilities of living in the Kingdom. Retell this story to yourself by putting God in the place of the man who was traveling, and your own name in place of the servants. “The kingdom of heaven is like the Lord, who called ____________ (YOUR NAME HERE) and gave talents to you, according to your ability. After a long time, God came and settled your account.”

So, what talent(s) do you think the king given has given you? And what have you done with them? Have they been used profitably? Being a good subject means that you can’t hide your talents. What are you doing with them? Someday you will settle accounts with the one who gave them to you: invest them wisely.

Invest Wisely

Heaven Starts Here

Thoughts of heaven may inspire a throne that burns with Holy Fire,
Or angels sitting on a cloud and singing songs of praise real loud.
But Jesus knew of heaven’s ways–
He’s the Alpha-Omega, the Ancient of days–
He spoke of a king that none could denounce,
Who will look at our books and will settle accounts.
He will show us our talents and tell us our story,
Asking if we used our gifts for His glory;
And we will be utterly chastened to find
That we wasted our talents and gifts, and our time…

He’s the King we are serving, we don’t have to wait
‘Til we’re standing in front of the heavenly gate!
The Kingdom of Heaven begins here, today:
Don’t take all your talents and hide them away,
But put them to work for the King and his Son;
When He settles accounts, He will tell you, “Well done.”

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

Doing Good: The Best Way to Silence all of Your Critics

A Surprisingly Simple Definition of God’s Will

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good * you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (I Peter 2:15, NKJV) I think sometimes that Christianity is losing the debate out there… Our world seems to be changing around us, and when Christians try to stand for conservative values and sensible morality, they are dismissed as oppressive or old-fashioned, held up to ridicule, and even arrested.

Opposites Don’t Attract

Our culture believes that killing a fetus is ok, that it is reasonable to change genders, and that authority should be challenged. Truth is subjective, innuendo is reported as fact, and the resulting confusion creates a nation filled with polar opposites. Social media is filled with debates where it is obvious that one side will not convince the other, and harsh words fly back and forth without affecting anyone who holds the opposing point of view (Except perhaps to make them more angry and more entrenched in their unreasonable position.)

Dialog has ceased in favor of diatribe; interaction has deteriorated into insults and invective. Personal attacks seem to be common whether the subject is abortion, gay marriage, politics, or race. Ironically, Christians are cast as haters when they follow the Messiah who taught about love. Maybe you’ve been drawn into a Facebook or Twitter argument, and were surprised at the passion and hatred that was thrown your way. Did it change your mind about anything? Probably not.

Debates Aren’t Working Anymore

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that no one has ever been forcibly argued into the Kingdom of God. It is a volunteer organization. Anyone can join, and everyone has a choice. If you think about it, wouldn’t everybody want to join a group whose main values are grace, love, and peace? So, why are churches shrinking? Why are so many people turned off by organized religion? Why is the vocal minority expanding, claiming huge chunks of Kingdom territory for its own, and why are millennial’s leaving the church? Could it be that “ignorant men” are winning the debate because the people the Church is trying to reach are not being overwhelmed by goodness?

doing good

So, What Then?

It is not a Christian’s mission to be moral or righteous; God gives us righteousness by faith. Peter says that God’s will is for us to do good things. Could it be that too many Christians are concerned with BEING good instead of DOING good? It could open up an existential debate. Descartes and Kant said, “To do is to be”. Socrates and Nietzsche said, “To be is to do.” Does what we believe show who we are, or does who we are show what we believe?

Jesus knew that what we do is a reflection of who we are, and so he said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:35) He agreed with the great modern philosopher Frank Sinatra, who said “Do-Be-do-Be-do.”

do good

The Best Argument

A quote I remember from college is what Peter Lord said: “What you REALLY believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.” Another platitude was, “Folks don’t care how much you KNOW, until they know how much you CARE.” Making an astute observation about human behavior, Mark Twain said, “Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest”. As a vocal critic of hypocrisy in the church, he knew that even religion didn’t necessarily guarantee right actions.

The point is, we Christians will not silence ignorance by our crafty arguments or by being “holier-than-thou”. Peter says we will share our faith with those who disagree most effectively by doing good to others. And if you think, “Well, I do lots of good things, so I’m covered”, then consider the twist James puts on it: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Voltaire echoed that verse when he said, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.” Have you done good things? Good! Is there more we can do? Absolutely. Let’s get out there and argue with our good works. Change the debate and change the world.

Doing Your Argument Well

When other people see your life, assume that this is true:
They do not listen to your words, but to the things you DO.
The world is full of ignorant men who argue night and day;
The church will never reach them merely by the things we SAY.
St Frances preached perhaps the greatest sermon ever heard:
“I preach Christ always; but, when necessary I use words.”
Less debate, less judgment and less hate should be unfurled:
Change debate to love, and then go out and change the world.

*(And to all your grammarians out there, yes I know that technically it should be “do well” or “do good [things]”, and not “do good”, so just assume that where I have said, “do good” I am actually inferring the correct form. I was conforming with the King James version in writing this.)

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

YOU Are Holy. And Being Holy Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.

Who Among You is Holy?

We are all pretty acquainted with the idea of being holy. We have all characterized some do-gooder as “holier than thou”, or a “holy roller”. Who among you has NOT said, “holy cow!” or “holy Toledo!” (or holy something else!)? But the Bible says that being holy may not be what you think it is. Consider this: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering. Bear with one another, and forgive one another, if anyone has a complaint against another. Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:12-13, NIV)

This is one of those verses that you can breeze by, thinking, “Yeah, I get that, be like Jesus”. But, stop and capture all of the impact it should have. Break it down a little and let it sink in. First of all, do you feel holy? I’d have to say that most of the time I don’t feel holy. Maybe I do every now and then. But usually I am just living my life, wrapped up in daily stuff, surrounded by culture and work and media and people and getting stuff done. I’m a pretty ordinary guy, living a pretty ordinary life. And yet Paul says that I am HOLY.

holy living

So, What’s the Definition?

He uses the Greek word “hagios”, which means “set apart”. We often equate holiness with perfection, or perhaps reverence and devotion, but the Greek word comes from a root that simply means “different”. A temple was considered a holy place because it was different than all the other buildings, set apart for specific use. As God’s children, we are holy. We are set apart for His use. Yes we may be reverent some times, or we may be at work and just doing daily stuff, but in either case we are set apart. We are designed to live an inner life that is different than it ever could have been before.

Second, Paul says we are beloved. Do you ever stop and think about how loved you are? Paul uses the word agapao, the Greek word for godly, selfless love, the kind of love that he describes in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s also the word Jesus used in John 13. This is that unconditional kind of love, the kind of love that is committed, permanent and consistent.

We have all experienced (and given) the incomplete human version of love, but here Paul is reminding us that not only are we given consecration, not only are we set apart, but we are loved without selfish motivation, without exasperation, without reservation, without limitation, and without expiration…You are precious to God. You are dearly loved.

The REAL Tipping Point

Paul says that we don’t have be motivated by God’s legalism or God’s judgment, but that we can be different because we are LOVED. God loves you intimately, completely, romantically, sacrificially, eternally. As a result, he says, we can put on a whole new outfit, clothing ourselves in tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Spend a little time today feeling holy. Then take a few minutes to allow yourself to feel absolutely loved. Put on your new clothes. I think you’ll find that your outfit also includes a new set of glasses that will help you see yourself—and everything else—in a brand new way.

You Are Holy

If you don’t live in utter consecration,
And find yourself feeling some exasperation,
Or have inclination to feel some frustration,
Remember the Father has set you apart,
To start being holy, from deep in your heart.
Not “holier-than-thou” like some people can be,
But reflecting the love that He gave you and me:
Tender mercies and kindness, humility, meekness–
The Spirit supporting our hearts and our weakness–
Long-suffering, acting in love towards each other,
With patience, be willing to forgive a brother
Like Christ forgave us: we should love one another!

Your righteous indignation only gives limitation;
Love without reservation could change our whole nation!
God loves you earnestly, passionately, intimately,
Completely, romantically, and sacrificially,
Fervently loving us throughout eternity,
Keeping us sheltered from Satan’s abuse,
But setting His children apart for his use:
Be holy, redeemed for a life that reflects
All the Grace and the love that your Father expects.

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

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

He That Has Ears…

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

foundation

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

It’s What’s Underneath that Counts

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

Shifting Sands

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

Bedrock

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

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

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

Foundation

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

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

In A World Full Of Radical Hate, Maybe It’s Time For Some Radical Love

Do Opposites Attract? Usually They Fight

We live in a world full of radical opposition. There are polar opposites almost everywhere you turn. It’s not just about conservatives and liberals, there are anarchists, white supremacists, ANTIFA, radical Muslims and other domestic and international groups who advance radical agendas. But the idea of being revolutionary is certainly nothing new. In fact, here’s a quote from someone you may not always think of as revolutionary.

Jesus made this radical statement: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34, NRSV) I’ve always thought this was a statement that gets somewhat overlooked by today’s Christians. It sounds like Jesus is saying we are soldiers entering a battle. I mean, we are supposed to get along with everyone, right? Doesn’t Paul say something in Romans 12 about living peacefully with all men? Wasn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? What does he mean when he says that?

A Radical Choice

Jesus explains in verses 35-39 that even family members will become opposed to each other because of him, and he says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

What a radical thing to say about following him! I think we sometimes forget that Jesus did not call us to merely know what he said, or to listen to sermons and nod in agreement. He challenges us to love him so fiercely that all other relationships pale by comparison. He says that our commitment to Him should actually force us to make choices about what we do, even if it causes division.

radical love

I’m pretty sure that he’s not talking about the kind of division that happens when Christians disagree about the style of music, or about the building fund—those are petty disagreements that happen in Church because people are immature and selfish—but Jesus is saying that following him will force us to make choices about how important he is in our lives. In some cases, those choices will prompt us to move away from both comfortable and toxic relationships.

Just Ask Yourself…

It’s not about division, judgment, or hate– it’s about commitment, unity, and radical love. Christians belong on the front lines of social injustice, embracing decency and dignity. Christians belong in a relentless army of good will that spreads the Gospel of love and forgiveness as counterpoint to constant headlines that focus on division and hate.

Today’s battle over culture and values should challenge us to do more than sit in our comfortable church and nod at what the preacher says. In his book Radical (page 20), David Platt says this: “The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response. In the process of hearing Jesus, you are compelled to take an honest look at your life, your family, and your church, and not just ask, “What is he saying?” but also ask, “What shall I do?”

So here’s the deal: what have you heard Jesus say? And if you take an honest look at your life, your family, and your church, do you feel pretty good about whether you are following Jesus or not? If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Peter Lord said, “What you really believe shows in your life every day; all the rest is just Christian talk.”

Your relationship with Christ is not what you THINK about what you believe, or even what you SAY about what you believe—it’s what you DO because you believe. Are you loving anyone enough to confront them with the Gospel? Are you loving your enemies so much that it makes them uncomfortable? Whether you know it or not, you are already in a battle. So gird your loins! Quit you like men! Be strong and courageous. Follow Jesus like you really mean it.

Carry the Sword

People call me the Prince of Peace, and gentle Jesus, meek and mild–
But what if I am a force unleashed, a raging river, strong and wild?
What occurs if you follow me, and allow my Spirit to reside?
Submit to my authority, with no place left to run or hide…
Love each other like a brother, follow me with one accord,
And know that I did not bring merely peace: I also brought a sword.
Be militant, therefore, in love: relentless for the world to see
That nothing in this life can stand between you and your love for me.

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

You are a Leader; So You Better Walk the Walk

“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” (Philippians 3:17 NKJV) Paul’s statement recognizes that there are two kinds of people. People who talk, and people who walk. (That principle is eloquently reflected by the Sundance Kid when he said, “Keep talking there, Butch. That’s what you’re good at.”)

Walk in the Right Pattern

My freshman year at Southwest Texas State University in 1972 I was on a Navigator team of five guys who were committed to making disciples. The Navigators are an international ministry founded by Dawson Trotman back in 1933. The book “Daws: A Man Who Trusted God” (by Betty Skinner) tells the story of how Dawson recognized a need to go deeper than “hit and run” evangelism to build disciple-making relationships.

The Navigators have been accused of being too radical, and have even been called a cult. Their military-like commitment to training and discipleship can seem radical to some outside of their ministry, I guess. From the inside, I found them to be a group of sincere, authentic guys who helped teach me how to live out my faith. They spoke often about “walking the walk” rather than just “talking the talk.”

walk the walk

Walking With Focus

Our group worked together daily on being not just believers but disciples. Part of our commitment was that we wouldn’t date if we were on the team because we were going to be investing our time in making disciples, not spending it on dating. It was a big challenge for all of us on a campus where there were four girls in the student population for every guy. I still think SWT had the prettiest girls in the whole state.

When the guys on the team would talk about “heart problems”—spiritual challenges that got in and messed with your head—avoiding temptation from female companionship always made the top of the list. The girls at the BSU (Baptist Student Union) teased us by calling us the “Never daters”, and for most of my freshman year, we didn’t. (That Spring I was released from my “no dating” pledge because the team was in transition, and I got involved with Campus Crusade, where, of course, there were girls…)

Walking on Campus

But for most of my freshman year, David Sneller, Bill Henry, Randy Dietz, and Tommy Ledbetter spent time showing me how to do evangelism in the dorms, conduct Bible Studies, and memorize Scripture. We did service projects (we helped my parents move one weekend, painted someone’s house another, and did various acts of service as a team…)

It wasn’t all just militant discipleship. They were a fun and engaging team. We played intramural football together, went canoeing down the Guadalupe, and hung out. What I discovered, and what I could SEE was that these guys didn’t just TALK about the Bible; they really tried to apply it in their lives every day.

Walking on Campus

I’m not gonna lie, the no-dating thing was hard for all of us, but in many ways life was simpler. We were on a mission. (Ha, as I write this, I still can’t believe we really did that. So if you are skeptical I understand, but it made sense at the time and it was really a very rewarding year!). Here in Philippians, Paul was so secure in his walk that he offered himself as a pattern to follow.

I’m thinking there are very few folks whose actions allow them to do that… But the guys on our Navigator team at SWTSU in 1972 were guys like that. They were authentic, transparent men who walked the walk. Dave Sneller told me my first week on campus, “If you really want to be accountable this year, spend the first few days standing on the Quad wearing a big sign. Have the sign say, If you want to see what a Christian really looks like, watch me”.

I, for one, didn’t have the courage to do that, but imagine the help you’d get if you did, and the accountability you would create by saying, I am the pattern—watch me.

walk sign

Walk Wherever You Are

Gives a whole new meaning to “Here’s your sign”, doesn’t it? Christian, where’s YOUR sign? Is anyone watching you? Have you offered yourself as a pattern to anyone? I learned a lot about following Jesus from those guys. In fact, I have been incredibly blessed with authentic people throughout my life who have helped me understand about walking with God.

Over the course of my life, I have learned about authenticity from my parents, teachers and friends I had in high school, and of course that Navigator team in 1972… After college, I have found accountability from guys in Young Life like Mark Krimm, Dave Martin, Joey Turner and Christian Hemberger. I have also found loving accountability from my lovely wife, who has shown me more about Jesus than anyone else I’ve ever known. If Paul’s message means anything to us, then he is saying: be a pattern. I would enlarge upon that by saying, No, wait: you already ARE a pattern. Be a good one

Walk the Talk

Paul told the Philippians that his life was a sample
Of how to walk with God, and they should follow his example.
“Talk is cheap” the Proverb says, and when you get right to it,
There are lots of folks who talk, but never really do it.
So here’s another Proverb for the ones who talk the talk:
If you are going to say it, then you better 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

The Ransom for Sin: It’s A Matter of Life and Death

The Ransom Price of Freedom

While it is usually reserved for kidnapping victims today, in ancient times ransom was requested fairly often. It was not unusual for captors to ask about it for prisoners of war, or anyone who was unfortunate enough to fall into the wrong hands. Those holding the prisoner would request that a ransom be paid to free the captive. Captors commonly leveraged the grief or concern of prisoners’ families to extort money from the victim’s family or government. If the captive didn’t have enough resources to pay ransom, they were usually sold into slavery or killed.

In the Old Testament times, the Israelites were required to pay something like a ransom for sins, in the form of an offering. “And he brought the bull for the sin offering. Then Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull for the sin offering, and Moses killed it. Then he took the blood, and put some on the horns of the altar all around with his finger, and purified the altar. And he poured the blood at the base of the altar, and consecrated it, to make atonement for it.” (Leviticus 8:14-15, NIV)

ransom sacrifice

The Only Way Out

I have wondered about sacrifices, the physical act of slaughtering a bull or a goat and burning it upon an altar. It was a messy, bloody business, certainly an uncivilized way to do church. And yet the Hebrew priests and people participated in all manner of animal sacrifices to atone for sin. Why? Because the justice system of the universe treated sin like a deadly disease (which it was), Sin always ends in death, and sacrifices reminded everyone of that grisly reality.

Very early on, in Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam about the forbidden tree: “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Guess what? Adam and Eve didn’t die that day, but they both experienced the certainty of sin’s penalty thereafter. So have all of their descendants. In essence, mankind was kidnapped by sin in the garden, and Satan demanded the appropriate ransom.

ransom for sin

A Harsh Penalty

In Romans 6:23, Paul reminds us that sin has a result: “for the wages of sin is death”. Leviticus 17:11 points out that Life of the flesh is in the blood. Sin is a life and death matter, and sacrifices provided a graphic reminder of sin’s penalty. Every time the Israelites killed an animal they were reminded that only death could satisfy the legal requirements for being disobedient. The ransom had to be paid.

There is no other way to deal with sin, and no way to get around it. Only by being sinless could someone avoid sin’s ultimate penalty, but no one could accomplish that, so God provided a temporary means for men to illustrate how that penalty would be paid until the permanent solution could occur. These temporary animal sacrifices helped prepare the way for the permanent necessary sacrifice that was to come. Sin required death for its participants, and the penalty was acknowledged through the sacrifices that were made.

A Permanent Problem Required a Permanent Solution

But sin required a more permanent solution, one on the cosmic scale that death demanded. It was only by the willing substitution of the perfect man that sin’s debt for mankind could be paid. It’s important to remember that Jesus was a volunteer, not a victim. As he said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

To bring that statement home, you should take it personally: Sin and death kidnapped you, with the worst of intentions, and demanded that you pay the full price for all that you have done. You and I were held for ransom by death and needed full payment in order to be free from its clutches. But the Bible has some AMAZING NEWS! If you have been captured or held hostage by sin, the ransom has been paid! Your freedom has been secured.

Blood Price

Think, today, as you draw each breath,
the wages for all your sin is death!
Whatever you think, and whatever you’ve planned
Is hostage, held by death’s demand.
You pled your case to the Righteous Judge,
But He said the Law just couldn’t budge,
So Jesus took your ransom cost
And satisfied it on His cross:
In spite of every mistake you’ve made,
When the Reaper swings his deadly blade,
In spite of the way you’ve disobeyed,
Great news! Your ransom has been paid!

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

Delight is Your ONLY Job Today: So Get Started, NOW!

Shining De Light on Delight

It’s fun to be delighted. However, we don’t often use it in a sentence like this: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” (Psalms 119:92-93 NKJV)

What is David talking about here? He is saying that God’s law gives him delight! Delight is defined as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.” I’ve been delighted by gifts, by the giggle of a toddler, or by something enjoyable or amusing, but I don’t recall being giddy about God’s law recently. How about you?

delight

The Nuts and Bolts

In Richard Bach’s book “Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, he tells the story of an automobile mechanic who delivers a message from God. He is followed by thousands because of the words he delivers to them. In his final sermon he asks the people if a man should be willing to suffer in order to fulfill God’s mission.

People respond, “Of course, Master! It should be pleasure to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask for it!” And the people were ready to carry out God’s will for them no matter how much of a burden, and no matter how painful or difficult. Then the preacher threw the crowd an unexpected curveball. “And what would you do, the Master said unto the multitude, if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE‘. What would you do then?” And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillside across the valleys where they stood.” (Illusions, pages 10-11)

The Hardest Command

God’s command was not that his children suffer or be tortured, but that they be happy. The multitude reacted in stunned silence. They had been ready to suffer for God but had not considered being happy for Him. Doesn’t everybody want to be happy? How many people do you know who ARE? Everybody wants to be happy, but who knows HOW to be happy?

What delights you? What REALLY transports you to a state of pleasure or joy? I bet it’s a short list, and I bet for most of us, it’s different than David’s. David found delight in God’s law. It gave his life order, and it sustained him during times of affliction. It was part of his world and part of his walk. From God’s precepts he received pleasure and enjoyment, and he even says, “For by them You have given me life.”

So, Which is It?

As religious but finite beings, we sometimes focus on the QUANTITY of eternal life rather than on the QUALITY of eternal life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) God wants you to experience not just life, but abundant life. He commands you to be happy. Are you?

Everyone I’ve ever known who truly loves God’s word and lives by it displays some degree of selflessness, concern, passion, wisdom, joy and peace… Not a bad set of attributes as human qualities go, and they are things that transcend circumstances. What’s more, the secrets to happiness delivered by God’s word can be applied no matter what is going on.

Think about being delighted today. Imagine that your delight was not dependent on circumstances, but on how you feel about God, and about how engaged you are with His word. Have you ever associated God’s law with pure unadulterated delight? If you fall more deeply in love with God’s words, I think you’ll also fall in love more deeply in love with life; and you will discover more about its QUALITY, even as you look forward with hope to its QUANTITY.

Delightful

God’s word gives life, its burden is light,
helps you do what’s right, and it shines so bright
in the darkest night that it gives you sight
no matter your plight, and it offers delight
that the world tries to match, but just can’t quite.
It may sound trite, but try it! It might ignite
A light that gives you delight that is infinite!

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

Words Matter: Do YOUR Words Build Up, or Tear Down?

Some Words About, Well, Words

Words matter, don’t they? Have you ever stopped to consider the power of words and how much they influence what we think and what we do? Words are vehicles that carry truth or lies, and they can sow peace or destruction. Remember that poem from Carl Sandburg: “Look out how you use proud words. When you let proud words go it is not easy to call them back. They wear long boots, hard boots, they walk off proud; they can’t hear you calling — Look out how you use proud words.”

words fitly spoiken

Words as Jewels

The Bible says many things about words as well, but this is one of my favorites: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, NKJV). This quote from Proverbs extolls the positive potential of words and reminds us that they are actually communications currency. They express how we feel and what we think. Without them we are on an island longing for expression.

Identity

When I went to Angola in 1975 as a BSU Summer missionary, I discovered that culture shock was not being surprised by what other people do, or dealing with “When in Rome”, but it was the difficulty of communicating, of having things to say and being unable to say them. In a Portuguese speaking nation, my halting Spanish only helped a little, and I became frustrated over the narrow boundaries it set for me.

I could barely get directions or ask for help (and that was with the Portuguese, forget about trying to understand any of the very common native dialects like Mbundu or Ki Mbundu). It was ironic that I was proud of being called articulate in an article written about my upcoming trip, and I floundered around in frustration once I got there. I felt like I was stupid and slow, and was sure that everyone else felt that way about me too. I realized how much of my image of myself was tied to being able to say words, or in this case, being UNABLE to say them…

Powerful Things

Words have magnitude. They can assassinate character and start wars. Words can connect us or they can divide us. Solomon knew the value of words, and he compared them to expensive jewelry. He said that ONE word spoken at the right time was a treasure, a work of beauty and craftsmanship. He compared it to something beautiful made from precious metals, something temporary that offered lasting and incorruptible value. One easy application of this verse is: say something nice to everyone you meet today. Give them verbal jewelry, and bless them with spoken treasure that has lasting value.

And while you are thinking about saying nice things, don’t forget that what we say cuts both ways: Do you remember the nicest thing someone ever said to you? (Probably not) But I bet you remember the meanest. There are things that still come back to me from middle school and high school, hurtful words that I remember from over 50 years ago, sitting there still trying to hide the golden apples in my memory. So today, give someone words of encouragement that will stand atop all those old words of discouragement. Give them fresh shiny jewelry that sparkles from the corners of their minds. Speak something “fitly” today! Use this list if you want to. Your conversations will be radiantly dazzling.

words

A Word from The Word Himself

Jesus understood the value of words, too. He said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Luke 21:33) So far (although it’s only been 2000 years) he is absolutely correct. He says that words are the one currency we handle here on earth that will mean something in eternity. What we say here, and how we feel about words will matter forever. “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Get to know what Jesus says, and do not be ashamed of it. You might find that it’s worth far more than apples of gold in settings of silver.

Apples of Gold

A word fitly spoken can heal a heart broken,
And can feel like a gift while it offers a lift!
A word can be used to deliver tomfoolery,
Or it can be like some beautiful jewelry,
Meant to embellish, to bless, to adorn!
Such words are a gift that is meant to be worn!
It’s easy to give them; just try it, you’ll see
They are silver and gold you can give folks for free.

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