Pain is No Fun. But Is it possible we Couldn’t Grow Without It?

Pain: What is it Good For?
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1-2 KJV) We often wonder why pain exists, why bad things happen to God’s children. The obvious philosophical answer is that God had to allow us to experience both good and evil to give us free will—without the ability to choose evil, wouldn’t our choice of good be somewhat meaningless? But here Christ also points out that pruning makes us more fruitful—something true in agriculture and in life. We trim away dead and unproductive branches so that all of the tree’s resources can be committed to useful ones. It is something of a shock to the tree, but in the long run you have a healthier, stronger tree as a result. The same is often true in our lives. Difficult circumstances give us growth and insight we would never otherwise achieve.

Quick: think of the 3 people in your life who helped you grow and achieve the most—teachers, coaches, leaders… Chances are they were not easy on you. They demanded more from you than you thought you had. They might have caused you pain. At times they challenged you, frustrated you, and called you to reach beyond your current level of performance. Is it possible that Your Father is using difficult circumstances in the same way? “He purges every branch so that it may bring forth more fruit.” Allow this sentence to sink in. Pray that it could change your outlook about hard times. Remember that Jesus faced discomfort and hardship throughout his life—and certainly during his painful death—so he knew what he was talking about. May His loving care guide you through difficult circumstances into new perspective and fruitfulness, and may you find a thankful heart no matter what happens. Even painful things can have fruitful results. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The thanksgiving season reminds us how important having an attitude of gratitude can be; it is also a great way to start remembering the greatest gift ever given, and the birth of the one who gave it! His life proved that the even the greatest evil can be transformed into the greatest good. Perhaps in smaller ways, our lives can prove the same thing.

Although contentment is our aim,
This life is touched by wind and rain;
Our comfort is disturbed by Pain,
Who sneaks around us like a thief
Breaking into our relief
To sow discouragement and grief.
Yet Pain can also play a part
As part of a loving Father's art,
In strengthening our will, our heart,
If pain is used productively
The way that pruning helps a tree;
There can be more to pain, you see...
So when you cannot bear it any longer,
Keep going. Somehow, pain will make you stronger.

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

Remain in Me: What if the Christian Life was as easy as Just Staying in ONE place?

You only have ONE Job…to REMAIN. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4 NIV). In the last of the seven great “I am” statements that John recorded for posterity, Jesus claims to be the true vine. In an agricultural society, this may have resonated more deeply than it does today, but it DOES sound more personal than “I am the WiFi, and you are the device.” So step back into a somewhat simpler analogy and consider for a moment that you are a branch on the vine. Perhaps you can picture a vineyard (like Jesus’ listeners would have), with orderly rows of plants that have been cultivated and cared for.

Left to themselves, the vines would be wild and unkempt, but the perfect symmetry of the vineyard suggests planning and hours of work. Focus in on one plant. The vine is about as thick as a man’s arm, and grows to a height of about 4 feet, with the branches going up another two to three feet from there. From the ground up, your vine has clean lines that are unmarred by unruly shoots or stragglers until it spreads out in glorious abundance at the top. The branches extend in an orderly fashion, and every one of them is laden with rich, colorful fruit. Just picture the clusters of deep Concord blue grapes that hang seductively from the branches, bursting with flavor and promise. This is what everyone in the audience would have been thinking, and they would be hanging on Jesus’ words almost like the grapes they were picturing in their minds… Jesus tells them that he is the root and trunk, and is therefore the true source of all life, nourishment, and growth. Without being connected to him you cannot grow, and you cannot bear fruit. The Vine and the branches have a natural, harmonious relationship.
Our status: connection
Our purpose: bear fruit
Our job: remain
Seems almost too easy that our only job is to “remain” in him… We are connected, we have access to intimacy with one who loves us, and we are just supposed to stay that way. (Before you say “that’s not too hard”, think of the difficulty we humans have with loving relationships—high divorce rates, estranged family members, fractured friendships…we have a hard enough time staying connected with those we are closest to, without even counting all the people we don’t even know…) So perhaps it’s not really all that easy to do what Jesus commanded us to do: “Remain in me”. Because there are distractions, aren’t there? The world calls us away from his abiding presence, and we stay too busy to remain in contact with him. And as if those distractions weren’t enough, we have our OWN interests and passions to lead us away from him. We get impatient with his slow and subtle guidance, we get a little selfish, and we… Separate. Find a few minutes to connect today. Think about your vine, and picture it bursting with succulent grapes! Reflect on the fact that Jesus said (John 15:5), “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” Graft your dry, impatient, selfish branches back into the vine. Feel his strengthening words flow into you, endure the pain of productive pruning, and bear fruit. It’s what you were created to do.

You are the branches; I am the Vine.
Your fruit will result in the finest of wine,
As your grapes find expression in succulent growth:
Rich flavor or color? I offer them both!
Seductive, however, the world can distract;
You must stay productive, and keep fruit intact,
For the world would destroy it or steal it from you,
To hinder what you were created to do!
There's also some pruning that you must endure
For that maximum growth that is fully mature.
For you to survive both temptation and pain
This reminder will serve as a simple refrain:
I am the Vine. Stay connected. Remain.

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

Jesus said, “I am the Life.” Did He mean Quantity or Quality?

In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE”: This life Jesus mentions is eternal, and that’s what we usually focus on, isn’t it? John 3:16 says that whosoever believes on him has everlasting life. It is exciting because it is immortal, and incorruptible. It will be everlasting. For many people, Christianity is an eternal insurance policy because it offers the possibility of living after death. But to me, that’s not what makes Christianity so compelling. In John 10:10 Jesus describes not a quantity but a QUALITY of life: “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” This type of living begins NOW, not when we die. It is yours now, in the midst of a dying, broken world. It’s a life free from worry, fear, death, prejudice, injustice, hopelessness, and selfishness. It’s a life full of joy, peace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love. This life does not erase the realities of a fallen world, but it creates new realities about how we live within it. It does not transport us directly to heaven, but it brings heaven to us, and offers a spiritual means to navigate a carnal world. In “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis, a pessimistic character named Puddleglum is held captive by a witch in her depressing under world, which she claims is the only real world. Even though Puddleglum’s group follows the great Lion Aslan, she denies his existence and tries to seduce them into giving up. He and his friends are beginning to believe her fabrication when he rouses himself and even without full proof or certainty, makes the following declaration:

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.” In times of doubt, I’ve often looked at Christianity that way. What if it is all made up? What if there’s no eternal life? Well, for my money the values that Jesus taught still offer a better life than everything else. Even if Jesus didn’t live on earth and die (although we know he did) and even if he was not resurrected (although the evidences strongly suggests he WAS), then it would STILL be worth living a Christian life that offers love, service, peace, and comfort. In Puddleglum’s words, the qualities of the Christian life “lick the real world hollow”. The world calls you to anxiety, stress, and discouragement. It offers you temporary pain and temporary solutions. Jesus came so that your life could be abundant. From all that’s around you, choose abundance today. You might just find it.

Jesus said, "I am the Life", and it is not redundant
To think: was longer life his aim? Or life that's more abundant?
Pie in the sky when you die by and by might matter most to some,
Eternity and what will be in all the years to come;
But rather than the quantity, the thing that means the most to me
Is life that's lived abundantly and characterized by quality.
Jesus said, "I am the Life", and then He came to give it.
For those of us who follow him, our job is just to live it.

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

You Shall Know the Truth, and the Truth Shall Make You Free

Yesterday we focused on “I am the WAY” in John 14:6; today we will look at “I am the TRUTH”, which is a little more complicated these days than it was when this was written… Veracity today is treated much too casually, and we are lied to all too often. Our perception of truth is colored far too much by culture, advertising and media. After a Presidential election season in which we found that Candidates lied, Social Media lied and the news media lied, why does this matter?Here are a few random scatter-shot thoughts about that:

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

Second, and totally unrelated, basketball player Allen Iverson’s nickname was “the Truth” because he was tough and played with heart; yet he’s famous for a rant complaining about how hard his coach expected him to practice. Now, Iverson was a little guy in the midst of a grueling NBA season, and his point was that he was leaving it all on the floor during games; but for the rest of us, the truth is this: Practice like you want to play, or you’ll play like you practice. The habits we build every day becomes the behavior we use under stress. Plus, even though he has my respect, knowing Allen Iverson won’t make me free; but knowing the Man who made this claim certainly has.

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

And finally, Zig Ziglar used to ask an audience, “How many of you read the newspaper every day?” (Lots of hands went up) then, “How many of you believe everything you read in the newspaper is true?” (Almost no hands) “Ok, how many of you believe everything in the Bible is true?” (Lots of hands) “How many of you read the Bible every day?” (Almost no hands) Point made. Then think about those thousands media messages you absorb; how much ‘less than true’ information hits your brain there every day? With all media combined—you have commercials, politics, Facebook posts, magazines, the news…. Really, there’s an amazing amount of stuff. How well do you know the truth? How much time do you spend getting to know it? In Politics, in Social Media, or even in commercials, every side seems to have an agenda that obscures truth and promotes self. In all of the subtle (and blatant) misrepresentations in commercials (a deodorant is so good that it makes girls attack you, or all beer drinkers are fit, active people), in news (we’re objective journalists) and in politics (pretty much everyone talking in fifty shades of falsehood), we forget John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Here is a man who said, “I am the Truth”: maybe it would make sense to listen to what he taught. Seek the truth. Live by it, and be free, America.

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

To 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

I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No One Comes to the Father, but by Me.

“I am the Way”, perhaps the most volatile thing Jesus ever claimed.
Jesus said, “I am the WAY, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Read the first four words of this sentence four times, and put the emphasis on each word, one at a time. Each different emphasis brings a slightly different twist to the statement, but overall the message is still consistent, and the meaning is uncompromised. Think about this one for a minute, and the sheer exclusivity of it: I am the way. I AM the way. I am THE way. No ambiguity here. No one else is the way but me. No one else is the truth but me. What an intolerant, arrogant, audacious thing to say! How could such a wise and loving rabbi burn all those bridges? Surely he didn’t mean the ONLY way… Surely he didn’t mean THE truth… Surely there must be lots of other ways! This one statement by Jesus is an implicit indictment of all other religions, and probably one of the biggest reasons people in our culture reject him. They can’t imagine taking a stand that excludes other good options. They can’t imagine going “all in”, and believing in one way. (Perhaps you know the old saying, “The good is the worst enemy of the best”? Accepting what is merely good could keep you from discovering the very best!) But this is the watershed claim, the one that calls for a decision. Does that seem preposterous in our enlightened age? But let’s put it into the right context. Would it be a good thing to drive your car the wrong way down a busy one way street? It may limit your travel options, but it might help you arrive safely at your destination.
Isn’t it kinda like a proposal of marriage? I love you, and ask you to join me, forsaking all others, excluding everyone else. I am committed to you, and I’m asking you to be committed to me.

We hear that in weddings all of the time, and no one jumps up and says, “That’s preposterous! How can they do such an intolerant thing?! This choice limits their whole future! They should keep their options open, because there are still lots of other possibilities out there!” No one objects because we see their exclusivity and commitment as good things representing the truth of their love for one another. Jesus said, “I am the way. No man comes to the Father but by me.” People might be offended because this is exclusive, but we have to remember that He is speaking as a groom to His bride. He is asking for commitment, undoubtedly the same measure of commitment He demonstrated to us on the cross. It may seem intolerant on the surface—but if it’s true, then it’s the most loving thing Jesus ever said.

"I Am the Way, the Truth, the Life, and someday you will see
The only access to the Father has to come through me."
This claim was quite audacious, and it sounds intolerant, too;
But it holds everlasting, passionate love if it is true.
If Jesus lied on this one, and is not the only way,
Then we should not acknowledge anything he had to say.
But if He is the Way, the Truth, the Life--both then and now--
Then every seeker will confess, and every knee shall bow...



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

Word to the Wise: Out of the Thousands You’ll Hear or See Today, THESE Words Matter

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) This short statement is amazingly full. First of all, consider the first two words: Jesus SAID. The spoken word is incredibly important in the Bible, even from its earliest statements on. Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Armed with nothing more than His Word, God created the heavens and the earth. The first chapter of John informs us that Jesus himself WAS the Word of God made flesh, which is validated in part by this: Armed with nothing more than his words, Jesus Christ changed history.

Think about some of the things he said, and consider the impact of his words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) What Jesus said is eternal. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63) “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6 :68) “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51) Listening to and obeying what Jesus said (the spoken Word) gives life. But wait, there’s more! “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) “He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28) The Word provides blessing. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) The Words of Jesus are foundational and provide wisdom. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) The Word provides redemption from the penalty of sin, and a way to escape death and judgment. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) The word, which is the truth, offers not only redemption but sanctification. It is an actual means to personal growth and behavioral change. And lest you dismiss all of this about the words of Jesus and take it lightly, consider this: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Consider what he said. Cross over from death to life. Be blessed!

Two thousand years ago, before recorders or TV,
Before the printing press became a new discovery,
The mystery of history depended upon memory,
And men who put things on a page to save them for another age...
Of all the pages that have been read, 
Of all the things that men have said,
This claim withstands time's harshest test,
And stands alone, above the rest:
"Heaven and earth will pass away,
And everything that men may say, But my words never will."
He spoke two thousand years ago,
And history proves that this is so: His word is living still.
Think about it: What are the odds? Chances are, these words are God's

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

You Are Loved Forever: So Give Thanks, and Get Peace

In Hebrew worship services around and before the time of Christ, there was a common refrain to verses of some hymns: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Who do you think this verse is talking about? And who is it talking to? Generally, it would be sung by someone in worship, someone who wanted to feel the love of God. Someone like YOU. It offered contentment, hope and perspective about life, love, and our place in the world: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV)

In the New Testament, there is an extension of this thought in Paul’s love letter to Philippi: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
These verses are appropriate during our season of thanksgiving, and they are inspire some observations. I’m sure you will find your own, but here are three things that jumped out to me: 1) Our love, and our ability to be loving can ebb and flow with the hustle and bustle of holidays and family gatherings, God’s love endures. In a world full of temporary items and elements, it is good to know that some things last forever. God’s love is one of them, and the Bible tells us it is good. Use His to help you show yours. Since you are loved, remind someone else that they are loved, too. Remember, when the casserole isn’t perfect, or you realize again why you only see those relatives once a year, or patience is thin: YOU ARE LOVED. Share that feeling with everyone else! Second (2), being thankful comes from recognizing who God is and what He’s done. Take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life, and wrap thanksgiving around yourself like a comforting blanket.

Remember to give thanks, not for material things but for the things that actually matter. And don’t forget that the family Holiday banquets we have here will pale in comparison to the Wedding Feast we will experience there. Third, I’d never realized that peace not only depended on my prayer and supplication, but my THANKFUL prayer and supplication. If I lack peace, perhaps I forgot to be grateful as I made my supplication. Hmmm… Might just be that if I prayed with thanksgiving for EVERY thing first, I’d end up with a different set of requests. And a different level of peace. Happy Peace Giving, everyone!

An attitude of gratitude can calibrate your altitude,
and help improve your aptitude when someone else is crude or rude.
Praising God whenever as we worship Him together
Will remind us of His Goodness; and His love endures forever.
Held in His heart, with love that does not cease,
We offer Him our Thanks. He gives us Peace. 

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

Being Thankful can Run Full Circle: Be Thanks Full as well!

There’s a difference between “Thankful” and “Thank-full-ness”…
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1 NIV) You’ll notice that this verse from the Psalms is exactly like the verse from Chronicles in yesterday’s devotion. Being thankful for God’s goodness was a regular part of worshipping Him. 2 Chronicles 5:13 says, “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” David used this verse over and over in the Psalms when singing praises, when he was leading worship, and to commemorate important events. (It also appears in Psalm 106, 107, 118, and 136.) Being thankful for God’s goodness and love was a major part of his life, and a major theme in his praises. He probably hummed this song while shaving, or when he was walking to work in the morning. During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we’ve probably taken a break to give thanks, and now our lives will get back to normal. There is shopping to do and there are Christmas decorations to put out. As we enjoy leftovers, and as homes quiet down from the joy and busy-ness of family gatherings, remember this: EVERY day is Thanksgiving Day. Even though no one will probably ask you for another year, “What are you thankful for?” it’s still a good question to ask. (Much better than “what’s in your wallet?”—don’t you think?). Be a little bit thankful every day. God gives us much to be thankful for because it emanates from His character. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father! He actually delights in giving to His children more than we do! Jesus said in Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Perhaps as you read that, you are thinking about all the gifts you have been given, and you are indeed grateful for all of your blessings.

If that’s so, then here’s a little twist to think about as you reflect on what you are thankful for: What are other people thankful for about YOU? Are they thankful for your generosity, your patience, or your joy? Have you given someone ELSE a reason to give thanks this week? Be not only thankful; be thanked-full as well. Happy thankfulness-giving, everybody!

One special day each year we pause and offer up our thanks
For all the blessings that we have, both in and out of banks.
We're thankful for the blessings and the love that we've received,
Grateful for the grace bestowed on all who have believed.
And while our saying 'thank you' is the proper thing to do,
I wonder, is there someone saying, "Thank You, God!" for YOU?

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

Jesus Said, “I Am the Resurrection.” Was He Crazy, or What?

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Of all the claims Jesus made, this is the most fantastic and unbelievable—and it’s the one that holds the most promise.

Jesus claims to have power over death, and to be the key to life after death. He’s gotta be crazy to say that, right? He ACTUALLY says, “I am the resurrection”. (Of course, he DOES raise Lazarus from the dead right after this, and he does come back from the dead later himself…) BUT, If THIS claim isn’t true, he’s just another guy. A good teacher, yeah; a wise man, yeah, but if this statement isn’t true then He was just a revolutionary rabbi with a short career. If Jesus did not triumph over death, then there is no greater reason to follow him than there is to follow Buddha, or Joseph Smith, or the Dalai Lama… The resurrection changes everything. If this isn’t true, then we should just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” We are wasting time being good and serving when we could be concentrating on accumulating fat stacks of cash, making a name for ourselves, or just flat-out partying. Forget all that selfless love stuff and look out for old Number One. Do your own thing. YOLO! Life is short: work hard; you’re gonna die, so play harder. If there’s no resurrection, there’s no hope, and no reason to serve…But here’s an existential question: Is partying really better for people who believe it’s all over when we die? The ones who don’t have the Church lady looking over their shoulder, restricting them to Puritanical behavior? One of the stereotypical views of Christians is that we don’t have any fun, or like to party. From one perspective, that stereotype has a point: if Jesus was NOT the resurrection, then Christians are wasting a lot of time serving and trying to be like him. As Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV) But here’s the thing: Jesus is also the LIFE. He offers resurrection! He offers hope for eternity, but he also offers abundant life in the here and now. (He actually says that’s why he came in John 10:10). If we actually DO have hope in Christ for the life to come, we are of all men most blessed…we win eternally because Jesus was the resurrection and the life, and we win NOW because we live with purpose in fellowship with our creator. We can party just as hard as anyone, only we don’t have to experience regrets like “How did I get this tattoo?” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or hangovers. The Christian life was meant to be abundant and full, and we have all been invited to the wedding feast. We don’t even have to wait in order to start the party! Eternal life starts NOW. It’s not that we can’t/shouldn’t party right now—it’s really the only way that, in the words of the great Robert Earl Keane, “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Party on!

If I said, "I'm the resurrection!", tell me what you'd think:
("Maybe he meant something else, or had too much to drink...
Surely he just didn't know he sounded so intense;
He's nuts. A guy who makes this claim is just not making sense.")
So why then would an honest Rabbi make this astounding claim?
An illustration? Maybe shocking listeners was his aim?
Maybe he was just confused, or maybe he got lazy,
But wouldn't everybody think that such a man was crazy?
We should question everything that's taught by such a man,
Who claimed to be the Son of God, who said he had a plan;
He said, "Though earth will pass away, these words I say will stand."
So there's your answer: question what he did and what he said:
Don't accept, investigate and question him instead.
Was Jesus really wise, or was he just out of his head?
A Con man or a lunatic is not worth listening to,
Something I would not encourage anyone to do--
Unless, perhaps, this crazy claim he made was somehow true...
That changes the game for me. My friend, it changes the game for you.

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

Sheep Need a Shepherd; Preferably, A GOOD Shepherd

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

But a shepherd’s role was also defined by the characteristics of his flock. He had to understand his sheep and guide them in such a way that they could overcome their natural tendencies. The analogy Christ is making works because there are so many similarities between sheep and, well, us… First of all, sheep are not very bright. They are selfish and appetite-centered. They don’t practice good crop management, since they will eat a field down to nothing, leaving barren soil in their wake. The shepherd would counter that tendency by leading them to various pastures in a rotation so that they could find enough grass in the appropriate season. Sheep don’t drink from running water, so the shepherd would guide them to ponds or “still waters”. Sheep will wander off and get into trouble. They are very vulnerable to predators.

When he was questioned about his ability to confront Goliath, David told Saul, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36) A sheep who followed his shepherd enjoyed protection and green pastures. Jesus had just contrasted the shepherd with the thief, who came to “kill, steal and destroy.” As members of his flock, we live in a world that employs numerous ways to accomplish those three things. What kills your joy, steals your time, or destroys your peace of mind? Be careful what you follow. In the verse just before, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.” The good shepherd wants your life to be more peaceful, joyful, and full. The thief wants to tear it down. Are you willingly following the good shepherd? He might just take you to a good spot.

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

To 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