Why Faith? How Come God Doesn’t Offer Indisputable Proof?

Why Not PROOF?

Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks more about FAITH than about PROOF?? “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV)

Faith doesn’t require proof, validation, satisfaction, victory or blessing. It is in ITSELF these things, and offers complete comfort and peace to those who exercise it. But I have always thought Christianity would be a lot easier if there was “God-in-a-box”. I’m talking about empirical proof that you could carry around and just show people.

Indisputable Evidence

Think about how easy evangelism would be. You’re sharing the good news with someone, and they say, “I’m just not sure I believe all that stuff”. Well, you open up “God-in-a-box” and SHOW them, and they’d have to say, “Oh, I see now. You’ve got God, right there. I guess I have to believe.” Scientists could analyze it and find conclusively that yes, indeed, God exists. No more arguments about who God is, or what God is like. No more atheists. If we just had “God-in-a-box”, the world would be 100% converted in whatever time it took for everybody to see the proof.

proof

Kind of a silly thought, I know, but also a fascinating one. Why is it that we can’t just PROVE the existence and nature of God in an irrefutable way? How come the Lord of the universe set things up in a way that allows for so much interpretation and ambiguity? Put simply, I look at it like this: God requires faith so that we have a choice. God could have given us undeniable proof and created us as automatons who are programmed to follow His every whim, but He didn’t. He created a universe in which we have free will to the fullest extent possible, where we could even choose to perceive him or believe him—or not.

By definition, if you could PROVE the existence of God, there would be no need for faith, and no real possibility for us to love Him of our own accord. Only by allowing us to reject Him did he give us the power to accept Him. He grants us the ability to have faith so that we can truly experience love.

Is Testimony True?

Second, God allows faith so that we have a journey. As God has revealed himself and men have responded, there are thousands and thousands of stories about changed lives and new directions. Abram left Ur to go to the place God would show him; Moses led a nation out of slavery; Paul did a 180 on the road to Damascus; and more recently, Brian Welch, Albert Pujols, Eric Metaxas, and many others speak movingly about their faith in God and their new direction on the website I AM SECOND (iamsecond.com). The changes in these many lives are fueled by faith which provided a platform from which to embark on a new journey in life.

proof

Finally, God gives faith so that we can live out a dream. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith enables us to take evidence and convert it to hope. It empowers us to take hope and convert it to action. True faith ALWAYS results in action (see James Chapter 2). There is no such thing as passive faith. It’s like the old expression, “put your money where your mouth is.” If you really believe something you won’t just talk about it, you’ll invest in it with your time and resources.

A person of faith will think differently, act differently, and dream differently. It might be surprising, but I’ve never really been a big “pie in the sky when you die by-and-by” kind of guy. I have always thought that the greatest thing about eternal life is how it performs TODAY.

What’s There to Lose?

You may say, “This God stuff is silly. We die and that’s it.” You might be right. So then, even if I’m 100% wrong, and we both end up in the grave, what did I lose? I still gained comfort, wisdom, and a quality of life I never dreamed possible. But if the faith I place in God is justified, and I’m right, then, WOW! What did I gain? If you ever stop and think of what heaven could be like, it is mind–bending. And it would be a shame to miss an eternity filled with God’s glory just because you were waiting for more evidence.

Somewhere, sometime along the way, God has revealed Himself to you. He has given you glimpses of His creativity, his character, his Word, and his impact on others. But He will never PROVE himself to you. He is waiting for you to step out in faith, and Hebrews says He is waiting to reward you if you diligently seek Him. Believe it. Bet on it.

Your Choice, Your Privilege

God did not make robots who could not think on their own,
But men who had to find their way to Him by faith alone…
Sure, He could have forced mankind to find Him and accept Him;
He could have offered iron-clad proof so no one could reject Him.
Instead of proof, He gave us all the privilege to believe,
To come to him by Faith, based on the evidence we receive.
Many may ignore Him; there are times when no one sees Him;
Just don’t forget: without Faith, it’s impossible to please Him.

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

Wake Up and Live, Now! Don’t be One of the Walking Dead

Too Late?

Lazarus had died, and it seemed to everyone that his good friend Jesus had arrived too late to help him live. But like he does on so many occasions, Jesus offered a different perspective: “These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” (John 11:11, NKJV) And of course the rest is history. Jesus went. Lazarus was raised from the dead and was given new life!

Have you ever thought about how Lazarus must have felt AFTER Jesus called him out of the tomb? We know how much his sisters loved him, and I can only imagine the joy when their family was reunited in such a dramatic way.

John described Lazarus’ post-resurrected celebrity, as well as how the Pharisees felt about him in John 12:9-11: “Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

Different people had different motives for wanting to get a glimpse of Lazarus. Some wanted to confirm that their friend was newly risen from the dead; some were just plain curious.

Some People Will Hate you Just For Being Happy

The Pharisees had a different motivation. They wanted to kill him. The Sanhedrin had been planning to kill Jesus, but they figured they better get rid of Lazarus, too, since he was living proof of the Master’s work. It’s kind of amazing to think that not everybody was happy with Lazarus’ new life. But I bet Lazarus was! Do you think he lived each day with heightened appreciation, with a greater sense of joy and purpose?

Surely he did, because he had been brought back from the dead by the Living God. He had new life! He was given a second chance! Lazarus went from being one of Jesus’ friends to perhaps his most devoted follower. Of course, that brings up a couple of questions.

1) Have you been given new life by the Son of God? Theologically, that’s the position and experience of everyone who follows Jesus. Paul says in Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin are death, which means we can be spiritually dead even while we are physically alive. However, once we decide to accept God’s grave by faith, Paul says this: “God has made you alive, who were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

If you read those verses, one truth emerges. There are two kinds of people in our world: those who are alive, and those who are the walking dead. They are physically alive but spiritually unaware.

Live, Today

We can live a fresh new day of our eternal life TODAY! So, do you live each day with a heightened sense of appreciation, and with greater joy and purpose? One of our daily themes at Eagle Lake Camp was, “I will live today as if it were my last!” Perhaps we can learn from Lazarus, who truly knew what that meant.

Come to think of it, what would life be like if you took the inverse of that and said, “I will live each day as if it were my FIRST!”? What if you looked at life today as if it were brand new? How would the world look today if seeing it was a brand new experience? What if you were experiencing love for the first time? Laughing? Meeting and interacting with people as if was your very first day? Lazarus did, and so can we. If you’ve been the recipient of new life, act like it!

2) Are you a member of the walking dead, or are you now awake like Lazarus? As you walk freely on the earth, are you living proof of the Master’s work? When Lazarus came forth, do you think he had a new vision and a new set of dreams? Did people around him look at him differently, and did he change his behavior, breaking free from his grave-clothes to walk towards new life and new possibilities? Paul Valery said, “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” It happened for Lazarus. It can happen for us.

live Lazarus

A Most Unusual Funeral

Jesus wept. His good friend Lazarus lay there in the grave,
And everybody mourned the man who Jesus came to save.
They'd all come for a funeral, from the south and from the north;
But Jesus prayed and then he cried out, "Lazarus, come forth!"
And somewhere, from within the grave a rustling sound was heard;
From within the darkened cave a waking man had stirred!
Lazarus, blinking in the light, was walking! People froze,
Astounded at the man who stumbled in his burial clothes.
Lazarus must have paused and wondered how this came to be;
So Jesus said, "He lives. Unloose his bonds, and set him free."

You might think this miracle was something rare to see,
But I was dead; and Jesus also said those words to me!
Now, I walk this earth alive, and I am very sure
That death would take us all, but Jesus is the only cure.

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

Want to Discover God’s Will? Then Here’s What to Do:

Finding the Secret

Ever wish you knew up front what God’s will is going to be for the rest of your life? Wouldn’t it make things easier if we knew exactly what God wanted us to do? The Bible says there are ways we can discover what that is. One of those ways is found in how we communicate with God.

Do you usually spend your prayer time asking God to help with someone else’s health issues or perhaps current events? Interesting, then, that when Jesus taught about prayer he began by talking more about God’s authority and God’s will. Maybe that’s a good place for us to start as well… “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10, NIV)

Knowing God’s Will

In the Lord’s Prayer (or the “Our Father” prayer), Jesus encouraged us to ask for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. What would that look like? How would your daily life be different if God’s will were fully accomplished here on earth? What is God’s will for YOUR life, and how do you know what it is?

The obvious place to start is to ASK for it: “Father, YOUR will be done”. But making that statement is not only a request, it is a submission. It presupposes that you have placed yourself, today, in subjugation to God’s purposes and plans. “Thy will be done” is a launching pad for discovering God’s plans for you.

Here are a couple of references that provide some insight: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17, NIV). John says that God’s will is different than what the world desires, that they will pass away.

How do material things stack up against abundant, eternal life? Equating God’s will with wealth, comfort, fame, or material things is like trying to compare a fun date with an awesome fifty year marriage. They both have their relative merits, but they are far different in quantity AND quality. Where God’s will is done, John says, there is eternal life. Instead of asking for success or material blessings, isn’t it easier to say “Thy will be done.”?

God's will

So, if I Ask for God’s Will, Will My Life Get Easier?

Doing God’s will does not necessarily guarantee comfort or safety. It does involve achieving what God wants and receiving what He promised. Praying in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39, NIV). Saying, “Thy will be done” requires stepping out in faith that God’s plans and purposes are greater than ours.

Knowing God’s will is accomplished by doing God’s will. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36, NIV). The reason for pursuing and doing God’s will is not to find some magic formula for successful living, but to recognize who HE is and who we are. What gifts and abilities has He given you? What is your mission or purpose? Has God made any promises to you? “Thy will be done” places all of those things before the Father.

Becoming Part of the Family

The Bible also says that doing God’s will places us in the right relationship to our Father. “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35, NKJV) It is really stressful chasing around trying to discover God’s will. We should not become stressed with the idea of finding “God’s Will”, but we should 1) Acknowledge it every day; 2) submit our gifts and abilities to the Lord’s plans, and 3) enjoy having an intimate relationship with the Father: we should simply FALL IN LOVE with God.

Sometimes when you think you have God’s will figured out, you get all wrapped around the thing you think He is doing, or where you think He might be taking you. Instead, just focus on HIM–walking with Him, enjoying His presence, and immersing yourself in his love. I think the rest will sort itself out. God sees all ends and has your best interests at heart, and will ultimately bring all things into alignment with the good pleasure of His will.

Paul says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11) What if we prayed every day, “Your will be done today, Father. Not as I will, but as YOU will”? I bet we would “receive what He has promised.”

Whose Will Is It Today?

Trade the thrills and pocket-fills, and cease the petty game of wills.
Embrace the Father like the Son. Pray: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Don’t just pray for your requests; the kind of prayer that works the best
Is asking God to do His will. He did it then. He does it still.

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

Four Dimensions of God’s Love: Height, Width, Depth, Length

A Deeper Look at Four Dimensions

In yesterday’s post I challenged you to look in John 3:16 and see the four dimensions of God’s love that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 3:17; Take a moment now and read John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”)

four dimensions of love

Now ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? And how deep? How long? After you have paused to reflect on that, make a list of the four dimensions–height, width, depth, and length–and jot down how John 3:16 applies to each one. Then compare your thoughts to my observations below:

How High is It?

How high is it? God’s love is infinitely high, defined by the character of the one who extended it: GOD. It comes from above us in every way. It is purer than what we call love, more committed, more personal, more selfless, more complete and more complex than our earthly perception allows. Isaiah 55:9 says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Think higher than Everest, higher than the heavens, and beyond the vast reaches of infinite space…

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above; Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…

How Wide?

How wide is it? It is so wide that it includes EVERYONE. Every color, creed, culture and character is under the span of God’s amazing love. “God so loved the WORLD (Yes, Grace is available to everyone) so that WHOEVER believes is saved…” Romans 10:13 says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

2 Peter 3:9 says, “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.” God’s love is as wide as every person who ever had a choice.

No need to hide from love that cannot be denied, It changes who you are inside, And ultimately you become His bride– And not just you but everyone who believes, receives, Yes every. One. So if you wondered: that’s how wide…

Plumb its Depths

How deep is it? It is so deep that God spared no expense and paid the ultimate price to extend it. He gave his ONLY begotten son. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap. It cost God his Son; it cost his Son his life. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

God is not an automaton without feelings or emotions, and yet the loving, jealous, passionate God allowed His Son to experience the cross in MY place. Read that sentence again. Seamlessly together for eternity past, they separated. The only perfect and unified force in the universe tore itself apart for us. Without any guarantee apart from His own character that everything would go as planned, God sacrificed his Son and Christ died. That, my friends, is DEEP.

Don’t Forget How Long

How LONG is it? The verse concludes with, “So that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING life!” How long is THAT? There was a song from 1957 by Johnny Mathis where he said he would love his girlfriend “until the Twelfth of Never. And that’s a long, long time.” EVERLASTING is longer than that.

A thousand, ten thousand years from now, we will all be somewhere, perhaps remembering when we first opened our hearts to the four dimensions of God’s love. I hope because I know that you and I will be still be experiencing those four dimensions, and we will just be getting started.

There they are: John 3:16, the four dimensions of God’s amazing love. You are welcome.

Love in Four Dimensions

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above;  
Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…
That love is in God's Character, reflecting who He is;
So if you wonder just how high it is, remember this:
The love extends beyond the sky, as lofty as the world is wide--
Don't hide from love that cannot be denied!
It changes who you are inside, and ultimately you become His bride-- 
And not just you but everyone who believes, receives: Yes every. One.
It's as wide, you see, as Calvary, and that's how it was done.
God made the ultimate payment at a cost that was infinitely steep;
Salvation may be free, my friends, but it was never cheap:
God sacrificed His only Son for us. His love is deep.
That love will live beyond this world, forever and a day:
(The love that's higher, wider, deeper than these words can say!)
The love of God will far outlast the words within this rhyme:
Beyond the twelfth of never, friends! (And that's a long, long time!)

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

Four Dimensions, Deeper Love: How God Loves You Back

In Ephesians, Paul mentions the four dimensions of God’s love as if everyone knew about them; so tell me, have YOU ever thought about the four dimensions of Christ’s love? In his book of superlatives, Paul talks about where God’s love is planted, and what it looks like. Even if you think you have love all figured out, his description is a revelation that will push your boundaries and redefine your limits!

four dimensions

Why Four?

In this eloquent prayer for his friends in Ephesus, Paul expresses the fervent hope “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18 NIV).

In this passage from Ephesians Paul calls out the four dimensions of God’s love. Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Have you ever truly grasped the width and length and height and depth of the love of God?

In this world, our perception of God is limited. We look at Him through a finite lens, and even when we think we see Him as majestic and incomparable, perhaps we are leaving something on the table… First Corinthians 13:12 confirms: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Paul claims that there is more to love than we see, and that it has dimensions that go beyond our perception.

The Shemah

Paul’s definition of love is steeped in the Hebrew Shema, which reminded believers to love God with every means at our disposal: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Jesus quoted that passage in Matthew 22:37 when challenged to give the greatest commandment.). So do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind? Have you grasped the four dimensions of God’s love?

In this life we dabble about with romantic love, we cherish motherly love, we love our friends, and of course we love animals and food and possessions and things. And we talk about God’s love… But Paul’s picture of love suggests that God’s love is infinite and powerful and amazing: perhaps we can broaden our perception.

All Means All

First, he says that we need to be ROOTED and ESTABLISHED in love. This suggests going deeper, taking nourishment, and transforming like a seed does when it gives life to a new plant. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Paul says that when we connect with love’s transforming power, we will see the dimensions of God’s love. Read a verse you’re familiar with, John 3:16, and think about the four dimensions of God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The verse that everybody knows contains the truth and power about God’s love that everybody should grasp. Look in John 3:16 and ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? And how deep? How long? They’re in there. Read that verse and make a list. Go deeper.

Love in Four Dimensions

Paul tells folks in Ephesus (and also tells the rest of us)
That perfect, Godly love will start with Jesus dwelling in my heart.
The love of Christ Paul mentions, he defines with four dimensions,
So awesome they can make you weep: it’s wide, and high, and long and deep!
Investigate what that must mean. Read John, the verse is 3:16,
And make a list right there beside: how long, how high, how deep, how wide?
It’s there, if you go deep enough: the four dimensions of God’s love…

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

Trading Places: Who Would You Trade Your Eternal Life For?

In the 1983 comedy Trading Places, a street hustler named Billy Ray Valentine trades places with the blue-blooded Louis Winthorpe III in a somewhat misguided social experiment. It’s a humorous ( and sometimes inappropriate) look at class and Darwinism, and what might happen if people from different walks of life had to survive in new surroundings after trading places. The Bible also takes a look at trading places, with a slightly different take:

trading places

Bargaining With an Angry God

It starts way back in Exodus, when the Israelites made themselves a golden calf. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:7-8, NIV

This creates a fascinating bit of tension and opportunity in the life of Moses. Suddenly he was clear and free of the obstinate, rebellious people who complained and rejected his leadership. Suddenly his future and that of his descendants was secure; all he had to do was to accept God’s offer and idolatrous Israel would become the un-chosen people. If he was open to trading a little bit with the Lord, he could leave Israel to judgment and go on his merry way…

The Art of Negotiation

Yet what did Moses do? “The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:30-32, NIV).

Moses basically said, “Please forgive these knuckleheads, Lord. But if you can’t, “then blot me out of the book you have written.” Let that one sink in for a minute. Who at this time knew more about God’s glory than Moses? Out of everyone on earth, who was most familiar with what heaven was going to be like? Who could anticipate eternity’s rich rewards better than Moses? (NO ONE) And yet Moses offers to trade in his own eternal life on Israel’s behalf, and asks the Lord to include him in the consequences if judgment is to fall.
QUESTION: Who do you love so much that you would trade your eternal life for theirs?

Now consider Paul. In Romans 9:2-3, he says “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Think about Paul for a minute: Who had been confronted on the road to Damascus and called to a personal interaction with Jesus? Who had been caught up into the third heaven to see glories and visions of the heavenly kingdom? Who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain?

The Trade of the Century

And yet Paul offered to trade his place in heaven for his people. He was willing to be cursed from Christ if only his fellow Israelites could be saved. Let THAT sink in for a minute. Moses offered to trade his eternal life for his people; Paul offered to be cursed from Christ for his people. Do you sense a trend here?

Finally, consider Jesus. In Luke 19:41-42, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he WEPT over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…” Jesus got emotional about Jerusalem, and of course we all know that he made the ultimate trade on their behalf… It seems that the closer someone gets to the Lord, the more his or her heart becomes filled with greater empathy and a greater desire to see others enter the Kingdom. The closer we get to the Lord, the more our heart will beat like His.

How is your heart? Who do YOU weep for? And who comes to mind when you consider giving away your own eternal life if only they could be saved? Hmm… You might not think of yourself as a minister, but that might just be your call to ministry, right THERE.

The Worst Trade and the Best Trade EVER

Israel sinned before the Lord, with judgment sure to fall;
Moses offered up his life if it could save them all.
It’s there in Exodus 32 and you can take a look:
“Please save them Lord; if not, then you can blot me from your book.”
Paul once said, ‘For me to live is Christ, to die is gain!”
But then he also said these words, that almost sound insane:
He loved his kinsmen so, he said he would be cursed from Christ
If they could find God’s grace by means of what he sacrificed!

Think of everyone you know, and picture all their faces;
For which of them would you consider trading eternal places?
We might think of one we love, and trade our life for theirs,
But what about a jerk? A thief? A crook who never cares?
Consider Christ, and think about the sacrifice he made:
He saw my face, unworthy; and he made the ultimate trade.

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

Jesus was Asked About Politics. His Answer Was Surprising!

Curiosity…

The disciples were curious about politics. They had been following their Rabbi, watching his growing popularity, and they wondered when he was going to make his move. “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6, NIV)

When Jesus had risen from the dead he spent 40 days with his disciples, teaching them about the kingdom of God. At the end of that time, they asked a question that tells us volumes about why the Hebrew people did not see Jesus as the Messiah: “Lord, NOW are you going to throw off the Romans and make Israel great again?” In a way, you can’t blame them at all. Instead of hearing Jesus’ message about the heavenly Kingdom, they wanted to know about his politics and his plans. They were a people living under the thumb of an occupying army.

politics

People Want their Rights!

They had to submit to external control. Because of the law, they had forged a culture that had remained stubbornly unique for centuries, and the oppression and disruption the Romans forced upon them threatened their ability to follow the law and thus attain eternal life. Perhaps no other people on earth chafed as much under foreign control. As Jesus’ ministry unfolded, they were still looking at events around them, still focused on political freedom, and still hoping to restore the Kingdom of David and the glory of Israel to the Promised Land…

Perhaps the number one reason people fail to achieve relationship with God is that they persist in their own expectations, rather than asking Him about His. It had to freak them out a little bit to hear the Master talking about serving to lead, dying to live, and forsaking worldly things to find spiritual reality. They had earthly business to take care of! They had their own agendas!

Are you like the disciples? Do you come to God on your terms, or are you willing to submit yourself to His?

Whose Kingdom Are We Trying to Build?

It is instructive that Jesus didn’t give them a political answer, and that he didn’t point them to political revolution as a means to gain power. Instead he said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Verses 7-8)

As he always did, he put the focus back on the Father, and reminded them that his kingdom was spiritual, and that their place in it was to go out and spread the Gospel. I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics, because after all we have the right as citizens to be involved in our political process. But it sure would be interesting to see what the world would be like if church goers put all of their political energy into helping the poor and dispossessed, spreading love, and changing peoples’ hearts with active faith.

When every Christian in America makes that their priority, THAT would make America great again.

If you want to see change, be changed. If you want to see a more loving culture, be more loving. And remember, as you sometimes feel heartsick while looking at the changing world all around you: the kingdom of heaven is not out there, in the world. It’s right THERE, in your heart, waiting to take the throne…Submit to the Father’s authority, and you’ll discover a whole new political platform to support!

A Different Platform

Jesus said it’s not for us to know the Father’s plans,
But we’ve replaced that with a lot of energy on man’s!
He wouldn’t set a final date for when the world would meet its fate;
He didn’t even hesitate, but told them they would have to wait!
Perhaps today we can relate in terms of our political slate:
We focus on our candidate, perhaps they’ll make America great,
Or have another Watergate, or battle with the media’s hate,
Or like the Patriots deflate for greed or power in the state.

But Jesus said to concentrate
On this: “Be witnesses to me.
Just start at home, then let the nations see
What being with the Father can be worth.
Go. Tell your friends. Tell everyone on earth.

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

Promises Made By Someone Patient, Persistent, and Perfect

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

Long Standing Promises From a Very Old Book

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

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

promises

There’s a Difference

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

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

True No Matter How You Say It

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

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

Us-ward Promises

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

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

Who had Faith so Great it Amazed Jesus? You? Or This Guy?

Amazing Faith

I am amazed at this story in Luke about something amazing. Jesus had been asked to heal a centurion’s servant, and before he even got to the house, this happened:

“[Jesus] was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (Luke 7:6-10, NIV)

Luke tells us about a centurion who was sympathetic to the Jews, and had apparently earned their respect (at least in part because he had built them a synagogue). His servant was deathly sick, and he heard about Jesus and sent elders from the synagogue to ask him to consider healing the servant. Luke describes how the centurion acknowledged Jesus’ power, had faith in His ability to heal, and how Jesus then healed the servant from far away, a fairly astonishing event.

The Amazing God

The gospels tell us over and over that Jesus did things that were amazing, and that people were astonished by him. Have you ever been amazed by Jesus? Consider what Matthew 7:28 said about him. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching”.

In Luke 5:8-9, he gets this reaction: “Simon Peter…fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…” I’m sure professional fishermen had large catches before, but apparently Jesus helped them to accomplish something remarkable.

Again, in Mark 6:51, the disciples were desperately caught in a deadly storm when Jesus “climbed into the boat with them, and the wind just died down. They were completely amazed…” We pretty much expect Jesus to affect people in that way, because, after all, he was God. He did amazing things.

amazed

Amazed by Faith

But I love this story about the centurion not because of what Jesus DID, but because of what happened when he heard what the centurion requested: “When Jesus heard this, he was AMAZED at him.” It is one thing for us to be amazed at God; but I had never thought about what it might take for God to be amazed at ME. The Centurion. Amazed. Jesus. Let that sink in.

It is apparently possible for us to amaze the Almighty. #lifegoals #beyond adulting #wow!! If the Centurion could do it, maybe it’s possible even for folks like us!

Do you really have faith? Can you believe God enough to depend on Him without reservation? Do you trust that He has your best interests at heart, and can do what He promised even if you can’t see him? The centurion was so confident in the Lord that Jesus was amazed at his faith. Have you amazed him with YOUR faith lately?

Get up, go look in the mirror, and ask: Who has amazing faith? And say:

amazed by this guy

Amazing

Jesus did amazing things that crowds turned out to see;
He healed the sick and lame, he even calmed the raging sea!
A Roman soldier asked for help, but didn’t ask for proof;
He felt unworthy asking Christ to step beneath his roof.
When Jesus heard the man’s request, he turned, the crowd to tell,
“I haven’t seen a faith like this in all of Israel!”
With that, the centurion’s servant left his sickbed, and was well!
Perhaps we all should ask with faith, and have our faith be raised;
Believing God is gracious and is worthy to be praised!
Have faith in Jesus; maybe BOTH of you will be amazed!

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 Purpose Driven Life: Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dream

Nothing defines your purpose better than standing up and announcing it in front of everybody you know. Have you ever done that? According to Dr. Luke, Jesus did it in his hometown, at his home church:

A Surprising Statement?

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, “ (Isaiah 61:1-2, NIV) These were the words Jesus read in Luke 4:16-19 at his home synagogue in Nazareth to proclaim his purpose and begin his public ministry.

Luke’s account of it says, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He [read from Isaiah 61].” Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, where apparently it was his normal practice to attend synagogue on the Sabbath. He announced his mission to a group who probably found it surprising that an apprentice carpenter would claim to be called to devote his life to fulfilling the word of God.

Not What They Expected

As the eldest son in Mary’s house after the death of Joseph (sometime after Jesus was 12), he had probably been fulfilling his obligation of working to take care of his mother, brothers and sisters. Jesus was undoubtedly part of the village landscape, and people there were familiar with him. I’m sure most of them assumed they knew what his station in life would be. But things had recently changed.

He had been baptized by John the Baptist and allowed his connection to the Spirit of God to go public. He had been tempted by Satan in the wilderness and had offered the Word of God as his defense. Jesus had gone and preached to great acclaim in Galilee. Now, in his home synagogue, he began his public ministry with a proclamation from Scripture. He read from Isaiah with conviction and understanding, and his commentary on the meaning of these verses put a stake in the ground about his identity and his purpose.

This was a Good Thing, Right?

So, what happened next? Did they accept him? NO! The very people he grew up around tried to stop him! “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way…” (Luke 4:28-30)

This somewhat surprising turn of events is really not all that surprising. The people in the village had labeled Jesus, and assumed he would be a craftsman like Joseph before him. They weren’t ready for such radical change, and Jesus’ announcement scared and intimidated them.

purpose driven

He announced he had a mission from God, so they suddenly saw him differently and treated him differently. But wait, you say, that doesn’t happen in our enlightened and tolerant culture! Hmm… why does the media follow the Kardashians and the Jenner’s but ignore all the good things that happen through every church in America each week? Why does it criticize Tim Tebow so much but celebrate the shallow and self-absorbed?

And it’s not just about media coverage, it’s about the way the current culture defends itself against change. The culture that celebrates shallow celebrities condemns champions of morality as haters. In the Sixties, Martin Luther King was killed for proclaiming a dream. He boldly called for God’s justice in an unfair world. If you ever proclaim a godly purpose, there are plenty of dream-killers ready to halt your progress.

What’s YOUR Purpose?

Have you ever wondered about God’s purpose for your life? He has one, you know. There is something to be done in the Kingdom of God that only you were created to do. It has nothing to do with worldly assumptions, money, fame, or self-importance. But it could very well involve helping the poor, healing those who are broken-hearted, and sharing freedom with those who are bound.

It may be that your purpose is connected to whatever your dream is; when you discover that purpose, you may be surprised at who supports you and who tears you down. When you decide to better yourself, to commit yourself to the Lord, to pursue His mission for you, there will be someone around you who wants to keep you down, and wants things to stay the way they are.

The example of Jesus says, “When God calls you to do something, don’t listen to the discouragers, the labelers, the dream killers, the ones who will try to stop you and tear you down. Follow your calling above all else.” If you are surrounded by naysayers and skeptics, pass through the midst of them, and go on your way. The Kingdom of God should always get priority over the labels and assumptions of culture.

A Surprising Announcement

Jesus stood before his friends and chose Isaiah’s scroll,
And there proclaimed his mission from the words upon the roll.
The Spirit is upon me, and my mission has been started,
To preach the gospel to the poor and heal the broken-hearted.
I’ve come to set the captives free! To all of you I say:
The Kingdom of the Lord is now upon you. Here. Today.

The people almost came undone! Why, how could this man be the one?
How has the Kingdom now begun? Isn’t this Joseph and Mary’s son?
They formed an angry mob and tried to throw him from a hill,
But Jesus slipped among them through the power of his will,
Committed to the mission he had come here to fulfill.
His purpose was compelling then; it is compelling still.

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

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

Words have the power to transform or trash. They can unite and inspire, or they can divide and harm. Something said can insult us and hurt us, but it can also be the soothing salve on a fresh emotional wound. Take a moment and think about your words, or the impact someone else’s comments have had on you. I bet you can still remember that thing someone said to you once that hurts your feelings even now when you think about it. I had a derogatory nickname in elementary school that still stings if I think about it. Words last a long time…

words kill

The Power of Words

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

So What About This Treasure?

A couple of questions naturally arise from these verses:

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

Some Words About…

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

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

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

Song Lyrics, Yes. Scripture, well…

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

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

words

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

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

Did you Know You Might Be a Priest? Here’s Why!

The priestly function is as old as the Bible, and we tend to think of a priest in sacramental terms (Mass), or as Father Joe or Tim… But it actually has nothing to do the Catholic church. The Biblical definition of priest is far more universal than any denominational function, and the application of that function may  just strike closer to home than you think…

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV)

The Priest does What, Exactly?

For as long as men have lived in communities, there have been priests. Most cultures in ancient times had priests who represented gods and conducted religious rituals. Joseph married the daughter of Potiphera, who was a priest of On. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro was a priest of Midian. A prophet by Biblical definition one who speaks God’s word to men. A priest has the inverse function, in that he intercedes for men back to God. Priests can administer holy rites and conduct sacrifices, providing mediation and healing between men and God.

The first mention of a priest in the Bible was in Genesis 14. Lot and his family were carried off after a defeat of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah by an alliance led by Kedorlaomer. Abram took 318 warriors and went and rescued Lot from these marauding kings. Upon his return, it says “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:18-20, NIV)

Priests and Redemption…

After perhaps the first story of redemption in the Bible (since Abram went into enemy territory and rescued his own, bringing them back from hostile captivity), we meet the first priest. He represents the God Most High, he blesses Abram, serves bread and wine, and gives God all the credit. Sound familiar?

The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus “forever a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6), and most scholars feel that Melchizedek is a Theophany, or a pre-incarnation appearance by Christ. Jesus himself certainly pointed us back to this passage when he served bread and wine at the last supper, and he was certainly the King of Peace (Salem). Based on what I saw on our trip to Israel, it’s obvious from this picture I took there that Melchizedek is still recognized around Jerusalem:

priest Melchizidek

Meeting the Qualifications

It’s interesting stuff worthy of further study, but for now I’ll just point out a couple of things. 1) Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, and yet remained sinless. As a sinless man, he was uniquely qualified to administer sacred rites (such as a sacrifice).
2) Jesus is called our high priest, and He is actually the ONLY person ever qualified to serve in that office on his own merit. As a man without sin, truly consecrated, he could certainly represent God to all of us, and show us what serving God truly looks like.

priest Jesus

3) As a priest without spot or blemish, he not only administered sacrifice but also became the sacrifice on our behalf. So what does all this have to do with you? Think about what Peter wrote to all believers: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

If you are a follower of Jesus, Peter says, YOU are a priest, and you are “God’s special possession.” So as a priest, start serving. Declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness. And as someone called out of darkness, keep shining. That’s what we priests are called to do!

The Role You Didn’t Know You Had

Abram saved his people, and the Lord gave him a sign:
He met the priest Melchizedek, who served him bread and wine.
Of all the jobs we tend to think we’re qualified for the least,
Perhaps the one we most avoid is acting as a priest.
We know that Jesus as a priest was truly qualified,
And that his right to fill that role was surely bona fide;
But Peter says that we are priests. God gave us every right
To sing His praise since we were called from darkness into light.
So if you doubt your status, probably just like I doubt mine,
Do this: Accept God’s calling to the light, and let yours shine.

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