Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Defending The Lentils

The name for my new blog comes from the story of a man called Shammah in the Bible. Of all of King David’s mighty men, Shammah is one of only a few courageous fellas specifically recorded in God’s Word in 2 Samuel 23. So, what was so mighty about this guy Shammah? He guarded a field of lentils.

Yep – he risked his life to defend… beans.

Shammah’s duty was to defend a field of lentils from the Philistine army that was attacking Israel. When the Philistines showed up ready to fight, everyone fled. It says in 2 Sam. 23, “But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.”

King David told Shammah to defend the field of lentils and he did. When everyone else split, Shammah said to himself, “Wait, I have a job to do. I have to guard the beans. I may die but I’m going to stand my ground as I’ve been commissioned by my king to do.”

The Lord has called each one of us to serve Him in some specific way. Sure, some are in the spotlight as teachers, pastors, missionaries, whatever. However, most of us have been called to defend beans. You may think that God has given you an insignificant task. Maybe you’re in a secular workplace and you’ve been called to love your coworkers and live out your faith each day. Maybe your ministry right now is changing poopy diapers. Perhaps you vacuum carpets at your church. Do you sometimes think to yourself, “Man, this doesn’t amount to a hill of beans! Others are on the forefront of the action but I’m stuck in this boring humdrum field where nothing exciting will ever happen..”

1 Cor. 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” Be faithful to do what God has called you to do. Jesus said that those who are faithful in few things will be made ruler over many things. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:58, “..be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

My desire is that God will use this blog to encourage you to have the heart, the valor, and the faithfulness that Shammah had. God has given you a certain ground of responsibility. It may seem insignificant, small, boring, pointless – just a field of beans. Don’t give up when it gets tough. Hold your ground even if you see a looming army coming to wipe you out. Do what God has called you to do. Your role in God’s story is significant. Stand up in the battle and the Lord will bring the victory. Defend the lentils.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

*sniff sniff*

Catch the scene..
I’m surrounded by thousands of people. I’m singing. They’re singing. Worship is rising in a united roar. Hands are raised towards the sky. Tears. Laughter. Reflection of the cross. I’m soaked to the bone since I just walked a quarter mile in a hailstorm. Tomlin is wailing at the mike and leading the masses with joy. Several of my close friends are within an arms reach. Christ is exalted. We are overwhelmed.

And then it hits me..

As if a massive pause button is suddenly pressed by some magical finger, the whole scene comes to a sudden halt for just moment.

I smell something..

Yes, I smell something wonderful…

Literally! There’s a delicious aroma coming from some nearby grill and the mouthwatering scent brings an immediate growl to my stomach. A smile spreads across my face as my eyes halfway close. Mmmmm. A glance to my right returns a couple giggles as my friends also catch the whiff and notice my reaction.

And then it was gone.

It’s mind-boggling how different smells trigger such a broad range of emotions and reactions. Of the five senses, we maintain the sharpest memories from our sense of smell.

Anyways, a correlation was made in my mind as I stood there in my sopping wet clothes. The worship from thousands of people arose like a sweet smelling aroma to the very throne room of God. Over and over, we read that the physical sacrifices from the Children of Israel were sweet smelling aromas to the Lord. The very nation of Israel is referred to as a sweet aroma in Ezekial 20.

But this is where it all leads to…

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” – Eph 5:2

Yes, it’s true that my sacrifice of worship is a sweet aroma to the Lord. Yes, it’s true that God’s people are a sweet aroma to Him. But the best smell that was ever sniffed in the history of the universe was the death of Jesus for the redemption of the world.

I never really thought of it like that until tonight but I think it’s true.

It sounds kinda morbid at first, doesn’t it? Look a little deeper though. It was God’s plan before He ever laid the foundations of the world that He would sacrifice Himself to save a broken hopeless people. As Jesus literally became sin for us and took the full blow of the Father’s righteous wrath and indignation, the offering was ACCEPTED by the Father! It was a sweet sweet sweet smelling aroma as the law was fulfilled, sin was paid for once and for all, and the infinite chasm between God’s holiness and Man’s depravity was bridged.

Good Friday, indeed.

So here’s my exhortation to you: walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us. Just walk in love. Allow yourself to be a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord as the life of Christ lives in you. Anything less than that and you’ll just stink of your own selfishness. God is sniffing the air. What does He smell? Let’s allow the love of Jesus to bring a beautiful fragrance from our lives.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Yom Kippur Rebuttal

Issue: Is the shedding of blood the only way to atone for sins?

Here is an argument I recently heard:

“Hashem [a title for God] knows what is on our hearts and that is all that matters. We ask for forgiveness and it is there.”

That’s a wonderful thought but it is contrary to Scripture. We’ll take a look at what the Tanakh and the Talmud have to say on the subject. But first, back to the question. According to Hebrew Scripture, how exactly are one’s sins forgiven?

Since there’s no longer a temple, today’s rabbis say that the blood atonement is no longer necessary for the forgiveness of sin. They say that doing good deeds and the giving of tzedakah (charity) will get you into heaven. The argument I referenced earlier goes a step further and says that simply asking God for forgiveness is sufficient. Here’s what the Talmud, Zevahim 6a says about Vayikra (Leviticus 17:11): “Surely atonement can be made only with the blood, as it says, ‘For it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.’” That’s pretty cut and dry.

Another argument that actually seems to have some scriptural backing for the absence of blood sacrifice is that atonement can be received by a flour offering. Leviticus 5:11 says, “But if he is not able to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then he who sinned shall bring for his offering one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it, nor shall he put frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering.” This argument is addressed by simply reading the next two verses. “Then he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar according to the offerings made by fire to the Lord. It is a sin offering.” The flour was only effective when added to the top of the blood offering of the community.

That brings us to Yom Kippur. The idea of Yom Kippur in the Scriptures comes from Leviticus 23. “…and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord.” The climax of Yom Kippur was the Azazel or the scapegoat. Oh man, I get excited about the scapegoat. Maybe I’ll write further about the scapegoat later this week. Anyways, two goats would be brought before the high priest, lots were drawn, one goat would be sacrificed as an offering before the Lord, and the other would be released after the high priest symbolically transferred the sins of the nation onto the living goat by the laying on of his hands. That’s where we get the term “scapegoat” since this literal innocent goat was blamed for and punished for the sins of the people. The goat would then be sent into the wilderness to die.

Therein lies the problem. There’s no longer a temple and thus no blood sacrifice. Is tzedakah (charity) and mitzvoth (good deeds) enough to abolish the requirement of the blood sacrifice? Or, as my friend recently argued, is simply asking for forgiveness from one’s heart enough to atone for sin? The Jews around the world hope so but how can they be sure? There’s absolutely no reason to think that God changed his requirement since there’s no scriptural backing for such a conclusion. Isn’t there a lot riding on the assumption/hope that God will forgive sins without the blood sacrifices that he so carefully and articulately ordained?

Let’s get back to basics for a moment. Ezekiel 18:4 says “The soul who sins shall die.” Again, very straightforward. The bottom line that we would all agree with is that the barrier between God and I is sin and only God can take away that sin. How can this be done today? Many Jewish people argue that we should be more concerned about ethics and doing what is right rather than ancient tradition and ritual. Tell me though, when did God change the idea from Leviticus that there must be an “exchange of life?”

He didn’t. Malachi 3:6 says “For I the Lord, I change not.”

So what then? Has God left all of mankind without a way to have sin atoned for ever since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD? No, God has provided. Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? God told Abraham to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice but then stopped Abraham’s hand at the last minute. God provided a ram as a substitutionary sacrifice. That story speaks prophetically of the day in which God would provide Himself as the sacrifice for the world. Messiah became the scapegoat and thus provides atonement for all who will believe. It is through His substitutionary blood sacrifice that the “exchange of life” takes place and sin is atoned for according to original Hebrew scripture. Yes, Jesus fulfilled Yom Kippur perfectly. Let me leave you with a passage from the book of Hebrews. Read it slowly and think it through..

“Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Heb 9:11-15

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Passover is just around the corner. It’s a time that I really look forward to each year as we reflect upon the story of God’s deliverance of His people from the hand of the Egyptians. If you don’t know the story, Google it and get ready to be amazed.

The centerpiece of Passover is of course the lamb. You can read about it in Exodus 12 if you’re interested. The lamb would be carefully chosen by each family, kept in the house until the fourteenth day of Nisan, and then be slaughtered. The blood from the lamb was to be placed on the doorposts and lintels of the house and they were to eat the roasted lamb as a family.

“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exd 12:13

So, the families that followed these instructions were spared from the plague that God sent to Egypt. That night, the angel killed the firstborn son of every household but passed over the houses that had the blood on the doorposts. It was the plague that persuaded Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Thus, the Jews celebrate this miraculous event to this day.

The first lamb sacrifice in the Scriptures is in Genesis and it progresses throughout the Scriptures. We read that there must be the shedding of blood for the remission of sins.

Gen 4 – A lamb was sacrificed for a single person: Abel
Exd 23 – A lamb was sacrificed for a family: Passover
Exd 29 – A lamb was scarified for the whole nation: the continual consecration by the priests
John 1 – A lamb was to be sacrificed for the whole world: John proclaimed “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

One of the specific instructions for the Passover lamb says in Exd 12:46 “nor shall you break one of its bones.” Very interesting. This speaks prophetically of Jesus…

A Roman crucifixion was designed to be excruciatingly painful. The torture would last for up to 36 hours before death finally came to the executed. The Scriptures say that Jesus died in just six hours. Because it was the preparation day for the Passover, the Jews asked Pilate if he would have the legs broken of the three people being crucified so that they would die faster. After all, it was a holy time in Jerusalem and nobody wanted to see people being crucified during the festivals.

It was actually a merciful act when Romans broke the legs of those being crucified. See, crucifixion brought spasms and eventually paralysis to the pectoral muscles. This would make it impossible to breathe. A man being crucified would then give himself a sort of artificial respiration. He would do this by placing his weight on the nail in his feet and lifting his body up a couple inches. This would allow him to exhale before dropping his weight back down.

So, the soldiers broke the legs of the men on either side of Jesus that day. When they came to Jesus, he was already dead. Instead of breaking his legs, they pierced his side with a spear to ensure that he was really dead. This fulfilled the prophecy from Psalm 34 that Messiah would not have a bone in his body broken.

Amazing! Did you know that Jesus actually died on the fourteenth day of Nisan? Yep, He became the perfect spotless Lamb and was sacrificed that day for the whole world. The very day that the Israelites were celebrating Passover and slaughtering the lambs, THE Lamb gave his life so that we could live. His blood is sprinkled on “the doorposts of our hearts” if we’ll simply believe that it is so. For my Jewish friends, may I challenge you to consider this and even study with an open mind? The Passover is a celebration of what God did thousands of years ago in Egypt but was also a prophetic celebration of the perfect Lamb: Messiah. Study the Scriptures, ask God to reveal the truth to you, and you’ll see for yourself.

Miller's Ale House

Dinner tonight with a couple friends was interesting. After my buddy was rejected by our hot waitress (she apparently has a boyfriend), the conversation meandered all over the place. I told tales of my beautiful Love and her annoying Papillion. We pondered all of the typical things guys ponder at a tavern. My buddy then had to dip and I was left alone with a new friend – one whom intrigues me greatly.

Once the bill was paid, the new friend and I sat at the booth and proceeded to explore some tragic territory. He basically bashed God for 45 minutes and blamed God for every failure in his life. It broke my heart to see how pissed and how hurt this guy was. He said that God just sits around and watches his life fall apart without doing anything about it. I didn’t say much. I just listened as this guy pointed fingers at God and everyone else in the world for his problems. When I asked if he still believed in God, he responded that he was just a hair away from walking away altogether.

I really feel this guy’s pain. Back in college many nights were spent venting to a friend (Nick Sells for the majority of one semester) about how I was ready to quit on God and just do my own thing. There was such depression, frustration, and hopelessness in those days. Life felt hard. I didn’t feel God, didn’t hear God, and didn’t like my circumstances. There were many nights that I almost threw in the towel on my relationship with God and just called the whole thing quits.

Several of Jesus’ disciples walked away from him after a particular event. When Jesus turned to his twelve and asked if they would leave as well, Peter gave this response:

“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (John 6:68)

That’s the key. When life doesn’t make sense, when our circumstances seem unbearable, when we don’t feel God’s presence, when we lose someone we love, when the structures in our lives crumble, when we don’t understand what’s going on, when utter loneliness and depression sets in, to whom shall we turn? We can shake our fists at God but then what? Jesus has the words of eternal life; who or what other than Him is left for us to seek out?

I’m going through a really rough month. Perhaps you are, too. If you’re going through a troubling time, let me encourage you to stick closely to the Lord. He’s with you, He’s watching you, and He is deeply in love with you. God uses the trials to refine us and grow us into men and women that intimately know Him and genuinely trust Him. Don’t be like my friend was tonight. Don’t let your circumstances grow roots of bitterness and animosity in your heart against God and the rest of the world. Draw near to God and worship Him anyways. He’s worthy of our praise whether we feel up to it or not. Just press on, keep on, hang on. After you’ve tasted the living water, there’s nowhere else to go that will satisfy the thirst in your soul. Jesus is everything you’re longing for. Don’t be deceived in thinking that the world has anything to offer that will truly satisfy your thirst. Whatever it is that you’re desiring, missing, aching for, or dreaming of, you’ll find it in the one that shed his blood on the cross for you. I’m not trying to be preachy here.. just aching for my friends that are walking away from God. Just go back and save yourself some pain and regret. He loves you so stinkin’ much and really wants the best for you. Let God have His way in your heart and life. You’ll come out with a smile on your face, a joy in your life, a beautiful spirit, and a peace that surpasses comprehension and understanding.

And if you have no clue what I'm talking about because you've never given your heart to Jesus in the first place, consider doing it tonight. You'll never be the same.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peace, Homie!

Check out today's Jon Courson Devotional..


March 10

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you ...
John 15:7

The word ‘abide’ means to ‘be at home in’. The Psalmist didn’t say ‘Thy Word have I hid in my mind’ or even ‘in my memory’. He said, ’Thy Word have I hid in my heart,’ (Psalm 119:11).

Paul echoed him when he prayed in Ephesians 3 ‘that Christ may dwell in your hearts.’

Why does the Lord want Himself and His Word to abide in our hearts and not just in our heads? Because, affected by data, discussions, and information, the mind is incredibly fickle. I can change my mind 100 times in a single day concerning a single issue. So can you. But not so the heart.

Think back to your dating days and you know how this works. If someone dumped you, even though you knew in your head you were glad to be free of him or her you would still find yourself feeling for him or caring about her. Why? Because the heart holds on. That’s why the Lord wants His Word to dwell there.

How does this happen?

For me the most practical way knowledge moves from the head to the heart is through meditation and contemplation. Spending time in the Word — in morning and evening devotions, in corporate study, in times when I’m waiting in line or waiting at a stoplight allows it to sink in and permeate my inner man, to be at home in my life, to abide in my heart.

(Jon Courson; www.joncourson.com)


This rings true with me this morning. As I think wayyy back to my dating days (umm.. just a few months ago!), I totally understand how the heart holds on even when the mind knows it's time to move on. So often, I study the Word from an academic position and forget to let the truths of God's love move into my heart. Lets focus this week on meditating on the truths that we know and push them into our hearts. Lets allow His words to be "at home" in us. Unlike Eastern Meditation in which you empty your mind of all thoughts and emotions, Biblical Meditation is the filling of your mind and heart with God's truth. Then, even when your circumstances are uncertain, even when your mind questions what's going on, even when people let you down, His Word abiding in your heart keeps you at peace.

Here are a few additional verses to go along with this idea...

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.." - Col. 3:15

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." -Isa. 26:3

"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." -Ps. 119:11

"The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide." -Ps. 37:31

"Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart." -Job 22:22

"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." -Ps. 119:97

"and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." -Phl. 4:7

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 Things About Me - I finally caved and did it.

• I ran away from home and headed for the Florida Keys at 17 with my best friend Matt. The plan was to become fishermen while living in my ’82 tie-dyed Volvo and making extra money by playing our guitars on the streets. We got stopped in Daytona for a broken taillight and were detained for a few days in Juvie until our parents felt like we learned a lesson and drove down to pick us up. I had the time of my life and would do it again.
• I found a dead body floating in the Atlantic while walking the coast with my father at 14. The guy was a friend of my grandfather’s and had shot himself in the head because he found out earlier that day that he had an inoperable brain tumor.
• Of the numerous jobs I’ve held over the years, I learned my most valuable skills about business, character, integrity, persuasion, patience, ethics, and perseverance while working at a crooked telemarketing company with open drug use and ex-con coworkers. I was 17.
• I was shot in the neck with a BB gun in middle school. The BB is just below my Adam’s Apple and you can see it if you look carefully. I’ve never had it removed because I’m scared of a doctor taking a scalpel to my throat.
• My sweetest times of worship and communion with my Savior are when I’m driving alone.
• I sometimes make faces in front of my bathroom mirror for as long as an hour because it cracks me up.
• I sleep with a small blue pillow that I’ve had since sixth grade. It goes with me on road trips and sleepovers.
• I never cried a single tear over my father’s death, yet miss him and think about him constantly. His cremains are in a cardboard box under my bathroom sink.
• I have a half-sister. Her name is Jamie, she’s 19, and the daughter of my father’s fifth ex-wife. I have no idea where she is and haven’t seen her in years. I usually tell people that I’m an only child because it’s easier than explaining.
• I think about my future wife, pray for her occasionally, and wonder what it will feel like when we lock eyes for the first time.
• Passion spills from my pen onto the pages of my various journals faster, easier, and with more clarity than I could ever express in any other way.
• I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m absolutely convinced that I am cheating at the whole Adulthood thing. I’m perfectly content with that, too.
• My mother was once a professional nude model and later owned a successful modeling agency in Atlanta. She also lived with a drug lord boyfriend in Peru in the 70’s.
• My heart yearns to travel and fully comes alive on the open road. I travel best alone.
• I still have the leftover popcorn, ticket stubs, change, receipt, a Polaroid picture, and a hand written note from my first date. I was in second grade at the time. The popcorn still looks fresh.
• I was suspended in second grade for defending myself against a group of bullies with a large cleaver. It was in my own front yard but considered an extension of school property because of the bus stop on the corner. (The bullies didn’t bother me after that day.)
• My greatest fear is living a life of mediocrity and leaving no legacy or mark on the world. My second greatest fear is snakes.
• Due to the way my mother raised me, I’m the most physically affectionate person you’re likely to meet.
• I was brainwashed as a child and was forced to listen to the oldies radio station against my will. Music from the 50/60’s became my favorite music and I listen to an oldies channel to this day as often as I can.
• Serial killers and the like fascinate me. I like to read the profiles of murderers – especially unusual bits such as their last meal requests before they’re executed.
• My favorite bands are Weezer and Dave Matthews, in that order. Their music has gotten me through the harshest winters of life’s cruelty.
• My youth pastor and I spent a summer building the outside baptismal at Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain. I’ve played guitar in summer concerts on it (it doubles as an outside stage). My Jewish father was baptized in it shortly after he accepted Jesus as Messiah at 60 years old. He and I got matching Malachi 4:6 tattoos earlier that day to celebrate.
• My grandfather was one of the wealthiest men in Florida from the 1940’s till the 1970’s. I’ve seen a picture of him arm-in-arm with Al Capone, who was one of his close friends.
• I cry often and easily but rarely in front of anyone.
• My favorite places in the world to be: standing in front of a group of people and teaching from the Bible, in a quiet coffee shop with a journal and pen in hand, in the arms of the woman I love, on my face before the Lord in worship, setting out for an adventure that has yet to be determined, basking in awe of God’s beautiful creation, and getting lost in the eyes of anyone who inspires me.