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

Pain is a bad thing; but is it always bad? What can it possibly be Good For?
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he taketh away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges 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.

pain

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 probably 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?

Jesus said, “He [my Father] 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. If we take hold of his perspective about pain, perhaps it can open us to new possibilities within our circumstances. Allow His loving care guide you through painful experiences into new perspective and fruitfulness, and perhaps you can 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 storms 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 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

 

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 Wi-Fi, 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.

remain

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, right? But stop and think: 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 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

 

Life Eternal: Is it the Quantity that Matters, Or is it the 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 captures our interest 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, and who doesn’t want to live forever?

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 lifetime free from worry, fear, death, prejudice, injustice, hopelessness, and selfishness. It is living within the possibility of joy, peace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love. Eternal life does not erase the realities of a fallen world, but it creates new realities about how we live within it.

This eternal life 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. She holds them prisoner in her underworld and surrounds them with false enchantments suggesting that Aslan and his world do not exist. Puddleglum and his friends are beginning to believe her fabrication when he rouses himself and even without full proof or certainty, makes the following declaration:

life

“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 heaven, no eternal existence? 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 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

 

Truth Just Isn’t What It Used to Be: Can it Still 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?

truth

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 (the Truth) won’t make me free; but knowing the Man who made this claim in John 14:6 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?

truth

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 out of both sides of their mouth), 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 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

 

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

“I am the Way” is 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.

way

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.

way

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 they see this as 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 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

 

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.

sheep

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.

sheep killer

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. Be careful WHO 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 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

 

“I am the Door.” What Do You Suppose Jesus Meant By That?

“I am the door.” (John 10:9, NKJV) This somewhat curious claim by Jesus is interesting. Is it an analogy? A metaphor? A literal statement? What does Jesus mean? Is he saying he is made of wood? Is he talking about the door to a sheep pen where the shepherd counts and secures his sheep, locking them away from the predators who would devour them? Is he referring to Proverbs’ claim that wisdom sits at the door?

door

Could he be referring to the Passover, where blood was smeared on the door posts to offer protection from death? Could he have meant the gates through which the king of glory would come in? Did he mean that He was the true doorway to God? Yes, yes, and yes. And in that culture and that time, the Jewish mind would also have seen the door as a portal which was actually representative of a man’s life. They observed where a man went and what he did as the indicators of his character and substance. In Deuteronomy 31:2, Moses said, “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in.” David prayed in Psalm 139:3, “You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Achish complimented David in 1 Samuel 29:6 by saying, “Surely, as the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight” The OT often spoke of a man’s “going out and coming in”, meaning that a man’s private righteousness should be consistent with the face he wore in public. Apparently that description was still common in Jesus’ day, since Luke described how the disciples began to trust Paul after his conversion in this way: “So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.” (Acts 9:28) It was only by observing and comparing a man’s private life and his public one that you could truly know who he was. What doors does he open? Where does he go when he goes out? What do you observe at the portal of a man’s heart? I think Jesus was tapping into that whole line of thinking, and providing us an alternative to all of the doors in the world. When he said “I am the door”, he was offering security and protection; He was opening the storehouse of wisdom; He was shielding us from the Angel of Death; and most of all, He was standing upon his integrity and inviting you to partner with him in all of your “going out and coming in”. You can walk through a lot of doors, and stay relatively unaffected. But I warn you: if you walk through THAT door, your life will never be the same.

"Let's Make a Deal!" Was the name of the show,
And the game show host was Monte Hall;
The people guessed prices and hoped to go
To the Final Round and win it all!

And Monte's amazing salesman's voice
Would offer the possibility
Of fabulous prizes! Make your choice:
Is it door number one, or door number three?

Well, all of us here are playing this game,
And each of us has a chance to choose;
The world offers doors of wealth or fame,
So tempting: what have you got to lose?
But I'd say this: if you want something more,
Reject the way the world keeps score,
And listen to the man who IS the door.
His fabulous parting gifts will soar 
Much higher than the world's, for sure...

 

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

 

The Light of the World: How Well Can You See Without It?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)

In John’s composition, Jesus said this to the crowd who had just watched him shame the judgmental Scribes and Pharisees and show love to the woman caught in adultery… The event happened in the temple during the week of the Feast of Tabernacles, so there was a large group of religious folks looking on, both rabbis and students alike. Since the Pharisees immediately challenged him on this statement, apparently not all of them had left with the rock throwers.

Why did Jesus make this announcement right here? This “I am” statement might seem unrelated to this event, like John inserted it for emphasis, but it really makes sense if you think about it. The Feast of Tabernacles began on the first night with a festival of lights, in which pilgrims lit lamps in their tabernacles, and 4 large candles were placed on the corners of the walls around Jerusalem for all to see.

light

There was probably one within sight of him as he taught. (You might think, how would people see a candle? But these were BIG candles, and there weren’t any other large sources of light like we have in today’s cities… He was contrasting his Father and himself with the legalistic system of the Pharisees. He offered light; they walked in darkness. They emphasized law and punishment; he was pointing to celebration and life.

Let’s make a couple of quick observations: First, Light dispels darkness. It helps us to see clearly and to act accordingly, in both a physical and a spiritual context. If there is something clouding your outlook, or darkening your attitude, light can brighten things up. This statement about light could have pointed Hebrew teachers back to the Shekinah Glory, which led the children of Israel through the wilderness. Was Jesus identifying himself with God? Jesus correctly points out that light provides life. Enlightenment saved the life of the woman caught in sin, and it does the same thing for us.

The Psalms says that God’s word is a lamp that lights our path (119:9). Here among the teachers at the temple, Jesus was equating himself alone to the Word of God, which John later expressed so well in the introduction to his gospel. John said of the Word, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Getting to know the Word better is absolutely the same thing as getting to know Jesus better.

Finally, Isaiah 9:2 is talking about the coming Messiah when he says “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” When he proclaims himself to be the light of the world, Jesus is connecting the dots. Are they connected for you? Today, may light warm you, illuminate you, brighten your world, and help you see!

Picture this: a thousand camps, the glow of candlelight, and lamps,
Without the glare of electric lights to minimize the darkest nights.
Within this glow, a statement’s hurled:
“Listen! I am the Light of the world!
Follow me, and leave your fright
of the darkest world on the darkest night…”
Men can follow, if they will, but many walk in darkness still,
Where evils in the shadows hide, with sin and ego full of pride:
Perhaps it’s time to just abide, to stop and listen to this guide,
Who said, when it was hard for us to see:
“I am the Light of the World; come, follow 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

 

Bread of Life: What are You Eating? How’s Your Appetite?

Over the last couple of days, I have mentioned the fact that Jesus made seven great “I am” Statements in John, so here they are: I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door; I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth, and the life; and I am the true vine. Let’s take a look at them to see if perhaps they can tell us something more about who He is…
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35, NIV) This statement was made to an adoring crowd right after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Since Jesus had just fed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and since fast food had not yet put a restaurant on every corner, the crowd was following him around hoping for another free meal.

bread

In verse 7 Philip said “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Food was not plentiful in occupied Judea, and many people lived hand-to-mouth. A miracle-working man who was able to feed a huge crowd became an instant magnet for curious crowds, and the people who had just been treated to an all-you-can-eat buffet were lining up for seconds. Here, Jesus redirects his followers from their stomachs to their hearts…

When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he told the devil, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He is talking here again about spiritual food, and pointing them to eternal sustenance that will never fail. He is reminding them of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness from Exodus 16, of Melchizedek’s offering of loaves and wine in Genesis 14, of David eating the show-bread from the temple in 1 Samuel 21, and of God’s fundamental connection to everyday life (“Give us this day our daily bread”, Matthew 6:11.)

Jesus offered himself as spiritual food to the crowd, and challenged them to move beyond the moment into eternity. He also offers himself to us, inferring that if we come to him, we will never go hungry. Jeremiah 15:16 says much the same thing: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” What bread have you been eating lately? How’s your spiritual appetite? Have you been skipping meals? Or are you full? Perhaps it is time to sit at the feet of the Master, and eat.

He’s the bread of life we should eat every day;
He’s the light who helps us to find our way,
And the Door to the Kingdom that has no end:
Our Shepherd, protector, our guide and friend…
He’s the resurrection who overcame strife;
He’s surely the way, the truth, the life,
The Living Vine from whom we grow!
The Rabbi you should get to know…
He’s the Carpenter who became a Lamb,
He’s the Son of God, the Great I AM,
The One who came back from the dead
To offer us this Living Bread.
I believe every word He said.

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

 

Testimonies You Ought to Use in Reaching a Verdict

What testimonies do you listen to? What testimonies do you believe? Judges and lawyers listen to lots of them, and apparently so did King David: “Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:129-130 KJV)

Since David brought it up, I was thinking a bit today about the nature of testimonies, and more specifically about God’s testimonies. The standard dictionary definition for testimony is: “1. Law. The statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court. 2. Evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof. 3. Open declaration or profession, as of faith.” A testimony is accepted as evidence. It is mainly used in court or in church, places where truth is supposed to matter. (As opposed to today’s newscasts, political arena or social media…).

testimonies

Testimony is given to affirm or declare something that happened. God’s testimonies are declarations of what God has done throughout history, evidence that the Creator has not abandoned us to the whims of history and death. I know a lot of people have a hard time accepting the Bible as God’s word. It has ancient stories that speak of things that seem impossible. An ark. A burning bush. A virgin birth. A cross. A Resurrection. Many people do not believe those things, and yet there they stand, testimonies written in a book providing evidence in support of a fact.

The writer of Hebrews said that “faith is… the evidence of things not seen.” You don’t really see wind, but you certainly see evidence of its passing. The same could be said about God’s testimonies. “But this is the twenty-first century!” we declare. “Look at all the things we know, and all the progress we have made! We have outgrown the Bible.” Have we? We live in a sophisticated age, relative to data. Not so much, relative to morality and kindness. The testimonies of God speak to that. They challenge us to a higher standard, to have testimonies of our own…

Our spiritual nature and perception of God makes us unique among all the animals, requiring love and purpose as opposed to mere instinct; God’s words speak to that too. God has revealed himself to man throughout history. It’s written down in His testimonies.

But say you don’t believe all that. Let’s say I give you all of the “archaic” stories that seem like myth; we’ll explain away the Ark and the Red Sea and the Lion’s Den. Take all of those away, but then do this for me: just explain Jesus. The testimonies about him are powerful. He never wrote a book, and yet his words are quoted every day. He said things that no one else said, did things that no one else did. You may not have literally seen his life, but you have certainly seen the evidence of his passing. Does any historian deny the historical presence of Jesus of Nazareth?

The testimonies about his life were so captivating that people literally died defending them. By the thousands: Stubbornly. Defending. Testimonies. Have you ever really considered what Jesus said? He was arguably the wisest man who ever lived… And, oh yeah, He believed in the testimonies. “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

What sustains you spiritually? What do you live by? God’s word is not given to restrict or oppress us; as David suggests, we should keep it because it’s wonderful. It has our best interests at heart; it gives advice for positive living; it offers sustenance, understanding and wisdom, even to the simple…even to me. It is a doorway to truth in a world full of spin, half-truths, and outright deception. Keep it, not because you ought to, but because it is wonderful! (Which reminds us that it is indeed… full of wonder.)

 

TESTIMONIES

They are statements of truth that are made in court;
They are evidence given providing support.
The judge will consider their content, and then
He'll decide who did what, why they did it, and when!
If you want to know what is true and what's not,
Just read testimonies all given by God;
King David just loved them, and read them each day
To provide him some wisdom and light on the way!
If you ever question, here's something to do:
Consider the Bible and whether it's true.
Take a hard look at Jesus, and when you are through,
Then decide if he has any answers for you.
There are millions of folks--I don't think they are phonies--
Enjoying the wonder of God's testimonies!
If you honestly read them, and write a report,
You might see that they're true. And would hold up in court!

 

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