Broken Vows Lead to Broken Hearts: A Never-Ending Story

“Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, O God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:15-17, NIV)

David wrote this Psalm after he had his affair with Bathsheba and arranged to have her husband Uriah killed. Like all of us, David fell prey to his own pride and lust, and did just what he wanted to do even though he knew it was wrong. The same man who sang passionate night-time praises to God on the hillsides, who declared his undying faith and devotion to the Lord, had thumbed his nose at God. He decided, like many broken people, to go do something selfish, sinful, and downright evil. Now his lips were silent and he was mute with shame.

No One is Immune

David was the king over Israel, a party in a covenant relationship with God, blessed beyond measure, and yet he caved in to his own fleshly desires and committed sins that were unthinkable to most people. He fell from the heights of blessing to the depths of depravity. David allowed himself to slip back into sin when he was surrounded by God’s blessings. He loved God passionately at times but still wandered away into tawdry, worldly activity, trading his spiritual relationship for instant gratification. Sound familiar? It should. It’s your story. It’s everyone’s story.

No matter who you are, no matter how close you are to God, there are times when you turn away from Him and do what you want to do. Your fleshly desires motivate you to lie, to covet, to commit sins in both deed and thought. You act publicly humble while you wallow in pride, you judge others when you are unworthy, and you act with impunity regardless of consequences. You start taking baby steps into sin until you have wandered afar off… And then you stop, realizing that you have broken trust with the Lord, that you have violated Christ’s sacrifice, and that, like the lost son you are broken and far from home.

A Private Offering

Even though David wrote this Psalm when the Jewish sacrificial system was fully operational, he recognized that animal sacrifice was symbolic, that it portrayed publicly what God wanted to see going on in our hearts privately. The death of the animals represented the death of our flesh, given willingly so that God’s Spirit might live in us. Jesus told both Nicodemus and the woman at the well that the Father wanted spiritual worship, not fleshly devotion, just as he confirmed to Pilate that he was a king, but his kingdom was not of this world.

God doesn’t want burnt offerings, He wants our hearts. When we ignore Him, when we elevate ourselves above Him, and when we cave in to selfishness and sinful desires, God doesn’t want us dead; He wants us BACK. When we stray from God’s love, according to David, there is only one appropriate sacrifice. What God wants to see is a broken and contrite heart.

Nathanbroken

What God Wants

God is not looking for those things to ensure that we are suffering, or paying for what we’ve done. He wants to restore us, to keep deadly sin from destroying us. Our loving Father knows that the only way for us to stay free from its grip is to present ourselves, broken and contrite, to Him. When is the last time you were broken and contrite? When did you last do business with God by presenting your broken spirit to Him without self-justification or reservation? How long has it been since you were brutally honest with yourself before the Lord, begging him for forgiveness?

Well, when was the last time you sinned? When did you last tell a white lie, or have a momentary flash of envy or hatred? When did you covet something, or put anything else before God? If there’s a gap between the last time you sinned, and the last time you were contrite, read David’s words again. You’ve got some business to do.

A Wanderer’s Prayer

I've wandered off, I've told some lies,
Allowed pure lust to veil my eyes,
Ignoring all my vows and "why's",
Wallowing where the spirit dies...

I could go offer sacrifice,
And hope somehow, by its device
That my heart, though as cold as ice
Would quicken if it payed the price.

And when I rise to face my lies
The tears are streaming from my eyes,
Because no ritual sacrifice will have the power to suffice,
Nor any prophet's sage advice!

So now, my Lord, I realize 
The truth I should have known there at the start:
You, my Lord, will not despise
A broken spirit and a contrite heart.


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
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He Was Rich and Became Poor. Seems Easy Until You Think About it

Super Heroes

Super heroes are all the rage today, and they are making somebody rich with the millions of dollars they rake in. But whether they come from Marvel Avengers or Hollywood, they are a poor substitute for the REAL hero who performed the most heroic act of all time. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The complexity of this verse boggles the mind. What sort of riches did Christ possess in his position at the right hand of God? Surely the Lord of Lords and King of Kings had access to wealth we cannot begin to comprehend. According to Colossians 1:17, the entire cosmos is under his authority, and held together by His power. So, it stands to reason that there are aspects of his riches we can’t begin to know.

How Powerful? How Rich?

We do know from John’s remarkable exposition on the Word that Jesus Christ existed in the beginning and was the creative force of God’s personality as the Word who spoke all things into existence. John also said that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) How glorious was that glory? How rich were his riches?

rich but poor

Just try to imagine what sort of splendor the Son left behind to become a mere man…We tend to measure wealth in terms of precious stones or metals, and we are impressed by opulence and ornate works of art. But consider the wealth that the Son of Man left behind for your sake:

1) He was rich in power. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God as the King of Kings and Lord of lords. Yet he left the most powerful position in the universe to be a vulnerable man; and not even a king or ruler, but a tiny, frail, and helpless infant. Instead of taking royal office, he became a servant, and humbled himself to become flesh in every way, even partaking of death on the cross…

Uniquely Rich

2) He was rich in righteousness. Jesus was the Holy One of God, the one who went 40 days toe to toe with the tempter but committed no sin; he alone was worthy to be presented without offense in the Father’s chamber of justice as the only one who could stand before the Father in purity and absorb the penalty for our sin. He didn’t have to, but he did it.

3) Jesus was rich in life. He was the guy people invited to weddings, the teacher everybody gathered to hear. He was the one who said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly“! Jesus was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who created all things and spoke the world into existence.

Jesus was there when time began, when all things were formed and sprang forth from his creative Word. He certainly understood what eternal life meant and how awesome it was, and yet He was willing to give up that life and taste death on our behalf. Through his poverty we became rich. It is amazing to consider how Jesus became poor for our sakes.

Was It Really So Easy?

We tend to think, “Well it was just for a short time, he knew he’d go back to all of that heavenly glory and reign on high”. But I will always maintain that since it had never been done before, the outcome held some manner of risk for the Son. What if the whole universe had unraveled when the Word left His throne and gave up His eternal riches and glory? Whatever the odds, we do know this: he left his perfection in eternity past to enter a world full of sin and death. It’s an amazing sacrifice when you consider what Christ left behind.

A Backward Lens

To me, it becomes even more amazing when you turn the lens around and look at that the other way, from our poverty:
1) We were selfish and grasping at control, and yet we were served by the Lord of lords.

2) We were sinful and condemned, and yet we were made righteous by Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.

3) We were dead in our sins, deceitful and carnal, and yet we were shown the way, the truth, and were given eternal life. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” It’s not just about what Jesus gave UP, but it’s also about what he gave US. He traded his riches for poverty, so that we could leave our poverty for his riches.

The King’s Foolish Trade

There was talk among the angels, all about the king of Kings;
They heard that he was going down to earth, with all that brings…
“Surely he will not give up his place upon the throne!
Surely he will not go down to Satan’s lair, alone!”
Then they watched the Son of God submit to life on earth;
They took the word to Mary, and they watched the virgin birth!
As Jesus grew, they watched him, and the angels held their breath
While the Christ fulfilled his mission in a world of sin and death!
The angels shuddered inwardly to see him leave his glory,
Amazed at what he sacrificed to change creation’s story.

Jesus came to earth to pay our ransom, after which
He took our poverty upon Himself–and made us rich.
Savior, King of Glory, Risen Lord and Great “I AM”!
Who in heaven knew you’d be the sacrificial lamb?
Angels wondered why you left–they knew you could have stayed–
You who took our poverty for your riches in a trade,
Make us ever mindful of the sacrifice you made.

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
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Sacrifice: A Mystery That Turns Murderers Into Missionaries

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV)

While it may be that 1 Corinthians 13 is the most-quoted chapter about love, Romans 12 deserves far more attention for being a pretty good “love chapter” on its own. The last few verses offer some explicit applications about what love in action looks like, but the whole chapter is really a pretty good working definition of love. It is a love based on sacrifice rather than superiority.

sacrifice transforms


In John 15:13, Jesus said “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Go back to all the things that were said and written about love before Jesus. You will find a number of different words for love. There are many descriptions and definitions, and certainly lots ways it was expressed. It’s always been one of the central elements of human nature. But amazingly, Jesus Christ redefined love and set its standard in a very singular way that has stood above all others for over 2,000 years.

Who WAS that guy? Where did He come from? Why haven’t there been other teachers the caliber of Jesus of Nazareth? You have to admit, he was different.

What made the Difference?

In Romans 12, Paul begins with Christ’s definition. (And does anybody besides me ever wonder where Saul, a persecutor of the believers in the fledgling church, “a Pharisee of the Pharisees”, achieved such harmony with and knowledge of the teachings of Christ?) He didn’t encounter Jesus at all until well after the resurrection and ascension!

Something fascinating: If you read Paul’s work closely, it reflects the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus incredibly well. Now, the early portions of the gospels were probably only just starting to be in circulation when Paul wrote his letters. He didn’t have copies of Mark or John! Yet he writes about the New Covenant and covers intimate details known only to Jesus or his disciples. Where did Paul get Jesus’ teachings?

His conversion and subsequent education about Jesus have to be one of the amazing biographical stories of all time! In Galatians 1:11-12 he says, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

Paul then explains that he spent three years in seclusion with Jesus in the desert, learning from Christ himself. Paul wrote about love and interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures in ways that reflected the Jesus we see in the Gospels, even though he had never followed the Messiah during his lifetime… Think about that!

What is a Living Sacrifice, Anyway?

And so here Paul begins Romans 12 with an earnest plea for us to lay down our lives as a living sacrifice. He challenges us to repeat the action of the one who gave us that definition and set that standard. Since Jesus did that for us, Paul maintains that it is only reasonable for us to give ourselves back to him in return.

Love responds to love, and love begets more love. As a result, Paul says, we will be different than the world, transformed and renewed, and will walk around as living proof of God’s will… The J. B. Phillips translation says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within”. It infers that we are all being molded, one way or another. We can conform to the world, or we can conform to God.

The world says, “Whatever you do is really ok; what’s right for me may not be right for you; get what you can; if you don’t like it, change it, hey, life is short…”
God says, “Love. Be redeemed by love, present yourselves back to me in love, be transformed by love, and remember that it’s not so much about your will as it is about MINE.

If you trust me, you will discover that I have your best interests at heart, and I will perfect you in ways you never imagined. Others will look at you and say, ‘that must be kinda what God looks like’.” Have you offered God your life lately? Ever wonder what He could do with it if you really gave it to Him?

Living

This passage does much more than teaches; Romans twelve says Paul beseeches:
Sacrifice yourself and live; give everything you have to give,
And Paul says you will surely find a brand new heart and transformed mind.
Don’t follow the world. Don’t be that dude. Allow your mind to be renewed,
So you will live a life that proves that God transforms. And loves. And moves.

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
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The Unthinkable Sacrifice That Never Actually Happened

The Bible tells many stories about sacrifice and redemption, and one of the most striking occurs early in God’s interaction with Abraham. The Genesis account says this:
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Genesis 22:1-2 NIV)

This request from the Lord was surprising to say the least. There were pagan cultures that sacrificed children to deities, but YHWH never endorsed such activity. In fact, when the law was written later He called it an abomination in Deuteronomy 12:30-31: “for every abomination to YHWH, which he hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt (sacrificed) in the fire to their gods.”

A Miraculous Child

Abram had left Ur and been obedient to God, following Him geographically to a distant place; but the Lord apparently wanted to take Abram further still, and so He asked Abram to do the unthinkable. If we learn anything from Abraham, it is perhaps that faith sometimes takes us into unthinkable territory.

Abram and Sara had waited all of their lives in hopes of having a son, and it seemed the opportunity had passed them by. They were overjoyed (and yes, a little skeptical) to receive the promise of an heir when they were seventy-five years old. Then they waited TWENTY FIVE YEARS to conceive and have a son. It is impossible for us to underestimate the depth of their love for Isaac. Just imagine the attachment these old folks must have had! Isaac was their true heir, their legacy, and their promised child.

sacrifice

Surely they enjoyed watching Isaac the toddler develop and become a healthy boy in their old age, assured now that God keeps his promises… Surely as they sang songs with him or watched him grow up in their household with unrivaled love and affection, they treasured him as much as any parents had ever treasured any child. And yet God told Abraham to go and sacrifice his only son. In light of these new instructions, Abraham’s response was amazing. It’s hard to put yourself into Abram’s shoes; it’s even harder to believe he could do such a thing.

A Miraculous Choice

He immediately took Isaac, his only son, and prepared to sacrifice him as God instructed. So many questions come to mind when you read about the way God tested Abraham in Genesis 22. Why on earth did God do that? How could God be so cruel and heartless? What was the Lord thinking? What kind of God would require you to offer up your only son as a sacrifice? Wasn’t this the child of the Promise, the one through whom the covenant would be fulfilled? Was this a fair test? These are all legitimate questions to ask about this sacrifice, but really, aren’t those questions all between God and Abraham?

There’s really only ONE question, perhaps, that YOU should ask about this: what is it that you love more than anything, that you are withholding from God, that you refuse to offer him? “Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Abraham denied himself and offered God the one thing in his life that he treasured the most. His relationship changed the way men perceived God, and it changed history from that moment on. God fulfilled the covenant of redemption through Abraham because he had faith and because he was willing to offer everything as a sacrifice to God. What will be different about history when your life is done? Think. Offer. Obey. Move to a new place. Find a new blessing.

The Sacrifice That Didn’t Happen; The Sacrifice That Did

What things went through Abram's mind? How could God be so inclined,
To make him give his only son? How could such a thing be done?
He had to hold up once or twice as he prepared the sacrifice;
Did God go back on promises made? And yet, old Abraham obeyed...
Isaac's birth and all the rest had led him to the toughest test
A man would ever think to face! And what did Abram know of grace?
God said, "Take him to the place that I will surely show you."
Abram had to think, "Oh Yahweh, do I really KNOW you?
Would you have me offer up my one and only son?
Why, Lord, would you sacrifice the only, Promised One?"

Looking back now, Abram knows the answers to his plea;
Yahweh's test foretold a sacrifice he'd yet to see:
For God allowed His only Son to go to Calvary,
Offered as a sacrifice for them. For you. 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread