“Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness” Isn’t In the Bible. But Wait! Maybe It Is, After All!

The Phrase “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” isn’t in the Bible. I know this would disappoint any number of Grandmas who have used it to exhort unwilling 10-year-old boys to practice cleanliness in a stronger way, but it’s just not there… But if you dig a little deeper, you might find something about cleanliness and Godliness that could apply to ALL of us.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV). From a theological standpoint, our sin was settled once and for all at the cross, and we have been granted righteousness in cosmic court on Judgment Day. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This means that from a statutory perspective, the penalty of our sin has been paid.

But from a practical standpoint, we still struggle with our cleanliness and we have to deal with the presence of sin. We still live in a fallen world, and possess a carnal nature that is contrary to things of the Spirit. Sometimes we still make choices that make us feel like godliness is far away… 1 John 1:9 is a well-known verse which confirms that sin doesn’t just magically go away, and is something we need to contend with. I’ve heard it called “the Christian bar of soap” because it presents the practical means for us to practice spiritual cleanliness in a dirty world.

cleanliness

John points out in verses 8 and 10 that all of us will struggle with temptation and sin, and there will be times when we make selfish choices or do something stupid or think something hateful. Even though we are free from the penalty of sin, until we go to glory we will still deal with the presence of sin. We get dirty. When that happens, John says we should confess. This confession is not mere assertion, or rote recounting of sin, but part of a heartfelt desire to turn away from sin and to embrace the teachings of Jesus. If confession ever becomes “going through the motions”, then watch out because it may become something less than true confession. But when we truly confess “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We can be cleansed in a dirty world. We can be cleansed from dirty thoughts and dirty choices. Confess. Cleanse. Repeat. Maybe godliness isn’t as far away as you think.

Jesus died for sinners, and he paid the penalty
So we could stand before the Father, clean as we could be.
When we stand before the throne and Jesus claims us for his own,
We won’t stand there all alone, and sin and death will both be gone!
But here on earth, we struggle with the presence of our sin,
And sometimes wonder how we made the mess that we are in.
When that occurs, the Father says, we have the solid hope
Of cleansing if we just apply the “Christian bar of soap”:
Confess your sins, and mean it. Do it every day you live,
And God is faithful, promising to cleanse us and forgive.
Since we wrestle with our sin, it’s really pretty neat
To know God says it’s simple. Just Confess. Be cleansed. Repeat.

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

Success Guaranteed in a Book: The Secret Every Leader Should Know

The Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and stood poised on the outskirts of the Promised Land. The most dynamic leader any of them had ever known was gone. People wondered if their chance for success had gone with him. At this critical moment Joshua son of Nun stood before them and gave them this exhortation:

“Only be strong and very courageous,that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:7-8, NKJV)

success

Moses, the greatest leader in Israel’s history (and arguably one of the greatest leaders in all of history) was gone, and Joshua was given the task of leading the stubborn and unpredictable Hebrew people into the Promised Land. Success would not come easily, but Joshua had already proven his mettle back in the wilderness of Paran, where he and Caleb brought back a good report from Canaan and advised Moses to go take the land even against great odds.

Now the children of Israel were poised to end their wanderings and complete their quest. There would be danger and difficulty. People would need to be motivated and shepherded into a hostile environment. The Lord told Joshua to look two places for help. First, he told him to look within himself, to “be strong and very courageous.” The Lord knew that there were untapped reserves within Joshua that even Joshua wasn’t aware of. Not only did this apply to Joshua, but it is undoubtedly true for all of us; it’s true for me, and it’s true for you.

I think it’s important to note that even in a life of faith, where God wants us to depend on Him, He still tells us to dig a little deeper in order to achieve success. So the next time you are frazzled, the next time you doubt, the next time you feel unsure about expressing your faith, “be strong and courageous.” God’s Spirit is given to us to offer us sufficiency and encouragement. Claim His power in prayer. Dig deeper.

The second place God told Joshua to look was in the new secret weapon He had given Moses. The Lord promised Joshua that if he spent time in the Book of the Law, if he meditated upon God’s wisdom “day and night”, and if he followed it rigorously, he would be prosperous and have good success. The secrets to happiness and success are in God’s word. Dig deeper.

Moses was gone. Israel waited. So Joshua, son of Nun
Stood up before the people and exhorted everyone:
“Be strong and be courageous! Trust the Lord, and do things right;
Meditate in the holy Book of the Law both day and night.
Keep it in your heart and follow everything it says,
And God will give you wisdom, and His guidance all your days.
Observe the law; receive the blessing, do not ask for less,
And then your way will be prosperous, and you will have success.”

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

Slavery Reversed: How the Worst Day Ever Became the Best Day Ever

Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery when he was just a teenager. It might have been better than killing him, but it still put him onto a hard path in life and caused him great hardship. When they met up years later, the brothers rightfully feared for their lives because Joseph had become a powerful man. His logical response would have been cruelty and vengeance, and very few would have blamed him if he had just done the worst things he could think of to brothers who had sold him out. But Joseph had another perspective.

“Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:18-20, NKJV) Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him, and for Joseph it looked like his worst day ever. But at the last minute they relented and sold him into slavery instead.

slavery

Although he began as a slave, he ended up as a powerful man in Egypt. His unwitting brothers fell on hard times, and when they traveled to Egypt seeking help, they wound up under his authority. The story of Joseph could have easily been one of righteous vengeance if Joseph had sought to make his brothers pay for what they had done. After all, he rose to a position of prominence in Egypt, and became a man with power and resources. After years of separation, his brothers found themselves alone in Egypt, totally at his mercy. They feared the worst, that he would exact his rightful revenge upon them, but instead he offered them grace because he believed God had a larger plan.
Joseph’s response was another example of the difference between man’s way and God’s way. His answer offers perspective for us when bad things happen in a fallen world. God can redeem even the worst things to accomplish something good.

Romans 8:28 says that He works “all things together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say that only good will happen, or that all things will be ok. It doesn’t even say He will do it automatically for everyone.

The secret of this oft-quoted verse is the same as the motivation behind Joseph’s statement to his brothers. It says that when you love God, and see yourself as called according to His purpose, you are able to process bad circumstances differently. You can operate in faith that God will turn trials into patience, bad circumstances into intimacy with Him and evil into good. That’s what Joseph believed. It’s also what Paul, James, and Peter taught in the early church.

As the foremost example of this, God took what is arguably the very worst day in human history (the day Christ was crucified) and turned it into the very best day in history (the day all men could be freed from the penalty of sin and redeemed!). Joseph may have been sold into slavery, but the Lord redeemed him for good. Isn’t the same thing true of us? We may have been trapped in the slavery of sin and death, but the Lord redeemed us out of bondage at the cross.

If God is able to transform the WORST day in history to the BEST day ever, then maybe it makes sense to trust Him with whatever happens to you today as well.

Joseph’s jealous brothers almost had a plot to slay him;
Instead they sold him as a slave, just thinking to betray him.
When he rose to power, and they fell into his hand,
He could have exercised revenge by giving a command.
He told them, “Yes I know you didn’t treat me as you should,
But what you meant for evil, God has transformed into good.
It is the Lord Himself whose grace has given us this chance
To see His hand at work for us in every circumstance.”
The Lord, whose grace has given us the chance to live forever,
Has offered us eternal love no earthly thing can sever,
And turned the very worst of days into the Best. Day. Ever.

 

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

Birthday Celebrations Don’t Have to Be a One-Time Thing! Have TWO!

There was once a man who got to celebrate his Birthday! Twice!

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3, NIV)

Nicodemus was a member of the ruling council known as the Sanhedrin. This group of up to 71 men, comprised of Scribes, Pharisees and Elders, became increasingly antagonistic towards Jesus as he conducted his public ministry, which is probably why Nicodemus had to visit “at night”. He couldn’t risk censure or afford to make enemies in that group. But he was impressed enough with Jesus’ work to acknowledge that God’s hand was upon Him, and honest enough to seek the truth.

When Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, it was puzzling to the Jewish leader, and he asked how such a thing could be. Jesus explained that it was a spiritual thing; you cannot see the Kingdom of God unless you have had a spiritual birthday to go with your physical one. He told him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”, and he encouraged Nicodemus to pursue the type of new life that was only available through God’s spirit.

This past month I got to celebrate my birthday on May 9. (Although at our house, we kinda like to celebrate all week long, and there’s even a card you can buy on Amazon that actually encourages that!)
https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Birthday-Week-Book-thats/dp/1539326918

birthday

My actual birth day was apparently pretty difficult. My momma always told me I was lucky to make it. I was very premature, an RH baby, and apparently had a couple of medical issues that were touch and go. She used to tell me that the doctors told her I wasn’t going to live, but the Lord saved me for a reason, and I’ve always been reminded of her belief about this time each year. I have to admit there are times when I’ve wondered if it was true…

My 3 kids would tell you there are at least THREE great reasons that God saved me as an infant, and to be honest, I’d have a hard time thinking of anything better or more important than having helped to bring them into the world. I got to be in the delivery room with Nancy and hold each one of them moments after they arrived on THEIR birthday!

But as meaningful as my birth story has been for me, and as meaningful as their birth events were, I am even more grateful for the fact that all of them have all experienced another birthday, the kind Jesus discussed with Nicodemus. I was “born again” the summer of 1968 at YMCA camp Flaming Arrow near Kerrville, Texas, when I came to realize that Jesus was not just an amazing Rabbi. I read what he said to Nicodemus and decided to follow him, thereby gaining another birthday. That’s the birthday that happens as a result of seeing who Jesus is, and trusting in what He did for us on the cross. That’s the birth that granted spiritual life, participation in God’s word, and adoption into God’s family. And as fun as it is to have a party on our original birthday, I think the celebration that awaits us because of our second birthday will be beyond our wildest expectations! So during my birthday WEEK, my wish is that YOU would consider this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. And pick yourself up a second set of cake and candles!

THE BIRTHDAY WEEK CARD

I was getting you a birthday card,
Which really wasn’t very hard,
But I saw this, and so I said,
“It’s good for the heart and good for the head!
So this is what I got, instead…
Read it every day. You’ll find
It will bless your heart and help your mind.
Once again, the time is near to celebrate another year!
This year the baker had to make more room for candles on your cake,
And friends and family couldn’t wait to wish you well, and celebrate!
But getting wiser can be hard, so this is more than just a card:
There is wisdom, if you look, within the pages of this book.
Spend some time with God each day, and you will grow a different way:
Intellectually stimulated, personally motivated, spiritually activated,
Ego properly deflated, you will wonder why you waited!
Read a page each day this week, and if you listen, God will Speak!

 

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

Elijah Made A Difference: What About You, Though?

1 Kings 18 is a fascinating Chapter to read, full of tension, drama and great dialog. It features Elijah the prophet, whose life would make a pretty interesting mini-series, as he confronted the evil minions of Ahab and Jezebel on Mount Carmel. The god Baal was a Mesopotamian pagan deity whose name was a form of the word “Lord”, closely associated with fertility and storms. Anytime you combine being pagan with fertility, your PG worship rating goes right out the window– as do morality, decency, and true godliness. Under King Ahab’s corrupt leadership Israel had begun to worship Baal, and the Lord sent Elijah to do something about it.

“So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.” (1 Kings 18:20-21, NIV)

The full chapter of 1 Kings 18 contains one of the great stories in the Bible. While Ahab was King of Israel, he and his evil wife Jezebel reinstituted Baal worship with its corrupt high places and pagan practices. Ahab was a bad king, but his wife was even worse. Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets wherever she found them according to verse 4, so it took great courage for Elijah even to appear before the king, much less challenge his authority. But challenge it he did, and Ahab gathered his 450 prophets of Baal to stand against this one man. It was a dark chapter in Israel’s history, and the nation stood at a crossroads between the Lord and Evil. What a moment! What a story!

Elijah won

Elijah confronted them with a challenge: each of us will prepare a sacrifice, and then call upon God to consume it with fire. The prophets of Baal went first, to no avail. No fire—no testimony. Their story ended in futile pursuit of a false, vain god whose only power existed in temporary pagan pleasures. (Not so different than most pursuits today, is it?)

Elijah then poured water over his sacrifice until it was soaked. Then he did it AGAIN. Then he had them soak it with water a THIRD TIME. When he finally called upon the Lord, the Bible says, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (18:38) The people acknowledged and followed God, and the prophets of Baal were slain.

There are a couple of things important here: One, never underestimate the power and influence one person can have. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man just like us”. Is that true? Perhaps one person like you can help someone turn their life around. (To paraphrase Chris Farley’s motivational speaker Matt Foley: “Even if that person is YOU.”) Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” So, then, DO SOMETHING. Even if you don’t change the world, you may change YOURSELF.

Second, Elijah confronted evil by calling down the fire of God. When is the last time you asked for God’s fire to come down and consume you? Ever? (No story, no testimony…) Like Elijah, we live in a world where leaders support shaky beliefs, people follow false gods, and evil seems to be gaining… And a lot of folks are on the fence like the crowd watching Elijah, interested on seeing whether God will work, but saying nothing. They are waiting to see whether a new chapter of Acts will be written… I’m thinking this world could use a few more fired-up Christians, and the world could change, one heart at a time. Could it happen?

Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Give it a shot, you might be surprised. And think of the story they might write about YOU someday!

Ahab ruled with evil lust.
He worshipped Baal, he screamed and cussed,
He broke the covenant’s sacred trust
And woke the Lord’s divine disgust.
Jezebel was his evil Queen.
She did some things that were obscene–
More evil than Ahab had been,
Hateful, powerful, cold and mean.
Their pagan prophets made the scene,
(Just read it in First Kings Eighteen)
But it was all corrupt, unclean,
The worst stuff you have ever seen…
Against them, just one prophet came:
(Elijah was his given name),
A man who prayed, and stopped the rain,
A man of faith. He changed the game
When he alone on Carmel stood
And challenged Israel to do good.
Elijah, see, he understood,
In an hour of need, that Yahweh COULD
Display His power against great odds:
If you need help, then ask for God’s.

 

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

Mountaintop Experiences May Not Be What Life is All About, After All

The prophet Elijah was despondent after experiencing an astounding victory on the mountaintop. He was a powerful voice for righteousness in the midst of a corrupt kingdom, and was fearless when he opposed that corruption. But he experienced depression and isolation after he saw God’s power at work, even after he himself had been used in a mighty way. His story reminds us why we sometimes struggle to live every day in the valley after we’ve been on the mountaintop.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (I Kings 19:1-4, NIV).

Elijah had just had one of the most dramatic victories over the forces of evil ever described in Chapter 18. He had challenged 450 prophets of Baal (and 400 prophets of Asherah), and allowed them to call all day for fire to burn their sacrifice. Though they convulsed and cut themselves, they failed to produce anything, while Elijah actually stood by and mocked them. Then he poured water all over his own sacrifice and altar (three times!) before calling upon the Lord to consume it. Fire came down from heaven and burned up not just the sacrifice but the altar of stone as well, and Elijah and his men killed the 850 evil prophets that day. It was a mountaintop experience that may be unrivalled in prophet history!

In so doing, Elijah won an amazing victory over the forces of evil in very dramatic fashion. Here, however, just a day or two later, Elijah is despondent and afraid. He’s heard that not only Ahab but Jezebel has it out for him. Suddenly he is looking around forlornly at his own resources and the odds against him rather than remembering what God has done. The monotony of business-as-usual created doubt about the miracle of the mountaintop. I think the same thing happens to us. We are often most vulnerable after victory, loneliest after enjoying a time of fellowship, and most prone to wander in the valley after being amazed on the mountaintop.

Christians may have faith to sustain them, but they are also subject to depression and loneliness, to the slings and arrows of a fallen world. I’d be remiss here if I didn’t say that if you experience depression and doubt–if you are stuck in a dark place–get help. Talk to a trusted friend. Seek counseling.

If you observe a friend or family member struggling, reach out! Provide the gift of presence. Provide encouragement rather than judgment. Don’t assume that being a Christian solves all problems; it brings resources alongside, yes, but it is sometimes all to easy for Christians to struggle in the valleys after having glimpsed the mountaintop. The Lord will heal, but he doesn’t always come to us in the way we might expect.

mountaintop

Elijah saw dramatic events that seemed like the stage where God should make an entrance, but the Lord was not in those events. Then God came to Elijah, not in miraculous, dramatic fashion, but in a still, small voice that spoke to him and comforted him. If you are wandering, or despondent, or afraid, quit looking around and start looking up. Remember the God of presence. Discover the God of hugs. Rejoice in the Lord of friendly fellowship! And listen for that still, small voice.

Elijah went to the mountaintop and felt God’s power and fire;
He stood on victory’s peak; emotions couldn’t get much higher.
Shortly after that he felt alone and unprotected,
And wandered in depression, feeling saddened and rejected.
But God came to Elijah in the way he least expected,
Not in some display of force or supernatural power,
Offering comfort to Elijah in his lowest hour.
Just when things were lowest and he thought he had no choice,
Elijah found God’s love and comfort in a still, small voice.

 

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

 

Say, If the Messiah returned Today, What Would He Say to Us Now, America?

He wasn’t who they expected him to be. He said things they didn’t expect him to say. In yesterday’s passage from the Book of Revelation, John described Jesus as the Alpha and Omega and the King of Kings; but let’s not forget that he had a very different role when he first came to earth. Isaiah 53 portrays a man who was rejected and spurned by the very people he came to save. While he was here on earth, the Messiah was so humble and spiritual that he made no political statements and had no political aspirations. If he returned today, would people notice? Would they care? What do you think he would say to us?

say unexpected

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2-5, NIV)

The Messiah appeared, not as a King in glory, and not as a celebrity on TMZ… If he appeared today, I wonder what he would say to our nation? What would he say to the dispossessed, the poor, the marginalized, the segregated, the beaten-down, the sufferers of injustice? He would say, “I have been where you are. I have shared your suffering and felt your pain. I am in the midst of your grief, and I offer you peace if you will turn to me. I offer you grace and dignity, forgiveness and respect.” “In the world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
And what would he say to the prejudiced, the haters, the purveyors of bigotry and division (both white and black)? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34).

And what would he say to those in power, those who do nothing about injustice, who respond with insensitivity and indifference? “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15)

And what would be his message to those who use their power to commit violence or abuse? “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice.” (Jeremiah 22:13) “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

And what would he say to all of us, as believers, about how we should act? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35, KJV). “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Let’s change the paradigm, people. Our nation can only achieve justice one heart at a time. The one who bore our pain and suffering, who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, has offered us peace and healing. Let’s offer it to our neighbors, one heart at a time.

A humble man of sorrows, he who came
Without regard for power, wealth or fame;
The King of kings and Lord of lords was he,
And yet he had no need for TMZ.
According to Isaiah 53,
He had no selfish lust for royalty,
And did not get involved politically;
He came to bear our sorrow, and to be
The sacrifice for our iniquity.
Perhaps we would do well to emulate,
To love the way he loved, and not to hate.
I hope, America, it’s not too late:
When he comes back, in power undisguised,
I think a lot of folks will be surprised.

 

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

A Soldier, an Athlete, and a Farmer Walked Into a Church…

What do a Soldier, an Athlete and a Farmer have in common? And what do they have to do with you?
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:4-7, NIV).

soldier athlete farmer

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is a great challenge about leadership on the Christian walk, and it is full of subtle details that make it applicable no matter who you are. Paul begins by saying, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier”. Being a Christian, Paul says, is like being a soldier. We are in a battle. We have a chain of command. We have orders. We experience suffering. He is not challenging Timothy to lead from afar, he is calling him to his side in the battle’s fray. Paul is not consulting, or leading theoretically. He is familiar with the hardships, the inconveniences, and the requirements of battle. His advice is true because it comes from experience. What soldier wouldn’t follow a leader like that? A good soldier understands his/her orders, and is committed to carrying out his/her mission. They stay focused on the objective.

Tell me, what is YOUR mission? How entangled are you in other affairs? How much do you want to please your commanding officer? But wait, there’s more: Apparently following Christ involves way more than going to church once a week. Paul also compares the Christian life to running a race. Why this analogy? Christians as athletes? Running to win? Athletes train. Athletes compete. They play by the rules. They strive mightily, and leave it all out there on the field…

Do we really do those things in our spiritual lives? How much do you train? How spiritually fit are you? How hard do you strive? How badly do you want the prize? Most athletes train every day, fine-tuning their bodies or trying to gain small improvements over their baseline. They work on specific areas where they can improve, with regimens designed to get them there. What’s the spiritual equivalent of that? Are we spiritual couch potatoes or athletes?

Finally, Paul compares the Christian life with being a “hardworking farmer”. A farmer clears land, prepares soil, plants, and cultivates. He calculates and plans his outcome, anticipating the benefits he will reap from his harvest. He invests countless hours in planting, tending, and harvesting his crops, and is rewarded with the fruits of his labor. He has to have patience and faith in order to complete his process. In each of these three examples, the participant is called upon to suffer, to strive, to work; and in each case there is a reward: the commander’s commendation, the victor’s crown, the first fruits.

These labors and these rewards are natural aspects of their respective crafts, but Paul takes it a step further. He says they apply not only to Timothy but to us. When Paul says, “Join with me in suffering”, he is inviting all of us. We are all in the battle. We are all in the race. The fields are white unto harvest. FIGHT. COMPETE. GROW.

Soldiers go through weeks of training; they do not meander.
They work hard to satisfy the demands of their commander.
Athletes work out constantly gain the speed and size
So that in competition they can strive to win the prize.
Farmers work out in the fields with toil, and sweat, and grime
So they can reap the first fruits of their harvest when it’s time.
Why does Paul compare us to the way an athlete strives?
He says it represents the way we live our Christian lives.
We are in the battle and the race, and you should know:
The fields are ready for the harvest. Fight, compete, and GROW.

 

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

 

Regifting May Seem Socially Unacceptable, But It’s Really OK in This Case

There was a humorous Seinfeld episode about regifting, the practice of taking a less desirable gift that you received, keeping it new in the box, and then giving it away to someone else. It’s kind of like a white elephant gift only the intention is not to stick somebody with something useless, but to divest yourself of something you didn’t really want in the first place. And, hey, they’ll never know, right? Of course, in the Seinfeld episode everyone finds out, and hilarity ensues… You hate to think that the gift you picked out for someone and hoped they would enjoy would become the object of regifting! You also hate to receive a re-gifted item, right? The whole thing is awkward because it involves rejecting and reusing a gift, and in a small circle of friends it can prove that “what goes around, comes around!”

regifting

Well, the Apostle Paul had another take on that, and it’s worth considering: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV) Everybody likes to get gifts! They are a small mystery, wrapped in festive paper. We weigh them, shake them, and hold them in our hands with delicious anticipation. We get to take a moment to savor them and wonder what they are. Gifts are a way that someone says, “You are special”, and who doesn’t like to hear THAT more often?

Here in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says that EVERY ONE of us has been given gifts: “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” In yet another small way, the Christian life flips conventional wisdom upside down: we are not given gifts to enjoy selfishly, we are given gifts to BENEFIT OTHERS. Paul compares us as members of the Church to a body, where every part plays a role in its health and function, and where every one of us matters. As humans, we tend to exalt certain spiritual gifts (up-front stuff like teaching, preaching, or leading worship) and minimize others (behind-the-scenes stuff, like administering, or serving); but every part of the body contributes, and every part shares equally in the accomplishments and edification of the whole. (And yes, that means that the guy who sets up chairs, and the woman who greets folks at the door are just as important as the Preacher in God’s eyes…)

If you haven’t discovered your Spiritual gift(s), then do some study, get some wise counsel, and identify what God has given you. Usually, a good indicator is when other believers feel blessed by something you do. If it edifies someone else, it is a spiritual gift. If it results in self-importance, or pride, or ego inflation, then chances are it’s not. Then it’s time to apply the regifting principle. Once you think you know about God’s gift, you have a re-gifting assignment every day: Open your gift. Give it away. It’s what gifts are for.

There are occasions when everyone’s hopin’
That there are some presents which they get to open!
I see all the gifts wrapped up under the tree,
And I always hope some are wrapped up there for ME!
But Paul had a much different take on the season:
He said that we each receive gifts for a reason.
Our gifts are not given for fun, or for play,
But we get them so we can go give them away.
Paul said that spiritual gifts are uplifting,
And those kinds of gifts are ok for regifting!
Discover your spiritual gifts and then shift them
Because they’re designed so that you can re-gift them!

 

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

King of Kings: We Shouldn’t Bow Down to Anyone Else

(This is Day 75 or so of Reading through the Bible) In case you haven’t noticed, back in February we started in Genesis and have proceeded almost daily through every book in the Bible, the book about the King of kings. (We covered some stuff between the Testaments and took a Passion Week detour through the four Gospels during the Easter season, so we took more than 66 days to cover all 66 books). Today the passage is from John’s Revelation, so if you’ve been reading along for the last 2 1/2 months, you have now read your way through the entire Bible! (If you haven’t, you can always go back and “binge read” on a rainy day…)

In the opening statement of his book of Revelations, John says, “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:4-6, NIV)

Many people think the book of Revelation is mainly about the end times, and what’s going to happen in the future. While John did see visions about what is to come, what sometimes gets lost among speculation about the future is that John’s visions were really not about us, our curiosity, or our fate relative to the tribulation… They were about who Jesus is. They are about the Word made flesh, the promised Messiah, the King of Kings.

king of kings

The apocalypse is not just about the end of history, it’s about His Story. Read through the book and you’ll know a whole lot more about Jesus, his mission, and his nature. Do you see him as he really is? If he really is King of kings and lord of lords, are you giving him the respect he deserves?

You can ignore him if you like; in fact you have both the will and the right to make that decision. But what if Jesus of Nazareth is who John envisioned him to be? John saw him not just as a suffering servant who came to be the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (as his Gospel clearly portrayed), but as a victorious king returning in triumph to rule over everything. The life of Jesus has already impacted history and changed the world, so there’s at least a chance that John’s (some would say) crazy vision was right. If even PART of it was accurate, then Jesus is worth investigating. Read the list below, taken from the Book of Revelation. Then, YOU decide…

1:5 Jesus is the faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, ruler of the kings; he paid for our freedom.

1:13 He is “One like a Son of Man” (compare Dan 7:13–14)

1:13–15 Jesus is the King, priest, warrior, God

1:16 He will wield universal, cosmic power

1:17 Jesus is the first and the last, (compare 22:13)

1:18 Jesus has the keys to death and Hades (cf. ‘key of David’, 3:7), He is the living one

Chapters 2 and 3 He knows the church intimately, and holds their reward or judgment in his hand

5:5 Jesus alone has all authority for judgment,

5:5-6 He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah; He is the Lamb who is worthy

5:6 He is God (in the center of the throne). With all power (7 horns) and all spiritual insight (7 eyes).

5:8 He receives the prayers of the saints

5:11-14 He is worshiped as God

6:16-17 He is frightening in his retribution!

7:17 He is the Shepherd who leads us to living water

12:5 He will rule with an iron scepter

19:11-16 Jesus returns as a victorious and powerful warrior. His name is ‘word of God’

19:16 He is the ‘king of kings and lord of lords’

21:22-23 Jesus and God are the temple and the light of the New Jerusalem.

22:13 He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End.

He’s worth your time, He’s worth your attention, and He’s worth your worship.

 

John’s Revelation spells it out:
About this King there is no doubt!
The Lamb who was slain, the chosen one,
The Son of Man, and God’s own Son;
The King of Kings, the Lord of all
Who rules all kingdoms, large and small;
He’s the Good Shepherd, warrior priest–
The Bridegroom at the wedding feast,
At once the Greatest and the Least…
The Holy One, the closest friend,
He is the beginning and the end
The one by Whom all things consist,
The ruler no one will resist.
The Alpha and Omega who
Was there when everything was new:
If the Revelation’s true,
Then it will impact me, and you.
Jesus will someday come again
To rule His Kingdom without end.
For now, there is a choice for men:
To be his foe, or be his friend.
I think I’d rather choose him now,
For someday, every knee will 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