Danger Held No Fear For Him: But Should We Really Follow Paul’s Example?

The apostle Paul went to great lengths to spread Christ’s message, and he willingly faced all kinds of danger. Maybe he was so zealous because he had tried to wipe out this new movement about following Jesus; maybe he was just a passionate guy. But he served Christ with all of his heart, regardless of personal discomfort or danger.

In spite of that, he was criticized by others, picked at by wanna-be church leaders, and stabbed in the back by jealous contemporaries. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he addressed some of the folks who boasted about all they had done, casting aspersions that Paul was not as committed as people said he was. Since they had called him a fool, he said in 2 Corinthians 11:16: “Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting…”

He went on to remind them of his qualifications:
“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

danger

I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked…” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NIV)

This was Paul’s response to critics who tried to disparage his ministry. As you look at it, just make a note of each of the dangers, risks, hardships, and life-threatening situations he endured to share the Gospel. It’s quite a resume. Five beatings of thirty-nine lashes. Three beatings with rods. One very personal encounter with angry stones. Three shipwrecks. And those are just the highlights! He doesn’t even get to his imprisonments and martyrdom…

To Paul, following Christ was an “all in” proposition. (After all, he was the one who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”) You really should read that list again to let it sink in. In today’s world, we get bent out of shape if the sermon goes 20 minutes over, and people (on average) spend about NINE minutes a day being involved in church. Yep, about an hour a week. When I look at Paul’s list, I am struck by both the hardship he was willing to endure and the passion he brought to sharing the message of the gospel. To Paul, things like hunger and thirst were just minor inconveniences compared to the glory of telling the good news. Kinda makes you feel a little bad about saying you don’t have time to be a greeter, doesn’t it?

I, Paul

I have lived a joyful life! I’ve learned to be content.
Just think of all I saw, and all the places that I went!
I went to Macedonia, and traveled far from home;
I sailed upon the open sea! I got to go to Rome!
Yes there have been some hardships that occurred along the way,
Like when our ship went down, and I went swimming for a day.
And yes I was arrested, and got whipped a time or five–
And that time I was stoned, I’m still amazed I stayed alive!
But even though I’ve had some inconvenience and some pain:
I know for me to Live is Christ, for me to die is gain!
But looking back now, I can say I’ve served Him from the start:
And I would challenge you, my friend, to serve with all your heart.
When you are looking back on life, with all the good and bad,
I hope that you can say with me, “I gave it all I had!”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Ambassadors or Judges: What Are Christians Supposed to Be?

It seems that our government has lost the fine art of statesmanship. Every elected official is supposed to represent constituents, but most of them spend so much time being contentious that they forget how to be ambassadors.

Come to think of it, I guess all of us are ambassadors in one way or another. According to Miriam-Webster, Ambassadors are authorized envoys or representatives of a government, or unofficial representatives, such as ambassadors of goodwill. You may not have been appointed by the government, but you are probably a representative of your family, for instance, or perhaps your work. As representatives of something larger than ourselves, what we do reflects on whatever or whoever that is. If you are a Christian, according to Paul, you have received an appointment, and you are reflecting on Christ himself. I guess, to me, that’s where things get interesting.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.” (I Corinthians 6:20, NIV). Wow, it’s kinda scary to think that God is using US as his ambassadors to make his appeal to the world.

Remember that when God sent the Angel to Cornelius in Acts 10, the Angel told him to get in touch with Peter, who would tell him what to do. Peter told him about “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” in 9:26. Cornelius and his whole household believed and were baptized. So why didn’t the Angel just deliver the Gospel to Cornelius? BECAUSE ANGELS CAN’T do evangelism! Only we humans are empowered to share the gospel.

We are Christ’s only ambassadors on the earth. He told the disciples that he was going away, but that he would come again for us. In the meantime, since he is not physically here, we have been appointed to represent him. It is our role to reflect Christ in a fallen world, to be “Jesus with skin on” wherever we are, providing salt to the corruptible and light in the darkness.

If you’ll recall, in the early days of the Church there were disciples who followed Jesus, and they acted so much like him that folks began calling people who followed Jesus “little Christs”, or Christians. Acts 11:26 says the word Christian did not come into vogue for at least couple of years after Jesus had departed: “And when he (Barnabus) had found him (Saul), he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

People were called Christians because they seemed to be a literal representation of Jesus himself. Every Christian is therefore a representative of Christ. I have always wondered how Jesus would act if he was among us. Would he be Church-Lady judgmental? Would he keep a sharp eye out for other people’s sins, and would he be shocked at our culture’s selfishness and licentiousness? Would he be quick to judge and nit-pick?

ambassadors

Or would Jesus be a cool guy to hang out with, dispensing wisdom with perhaps a touch of good-natured humor? Would he be loving but intense, with flashes of transfigured glory, and would we see his healing and miracles? Would he be having engaging conversations with friends, intriguing them with the gospel?

There’s no doubt in my mind that if Jesus were among us, people would be amazed and surprised by Him… They would be curious about him, stimulated to deepen their love for God as well as others around them. Well, according to this verse, he IS among us, and his presence is evident, making its appeal through ambassadors. Those ambassadors are us.

We are now the representatives of Christ on this earth, the lens through which all unbelievers see him. Our actions and statements determine whether the world sees Christians as a bunch of petty, judgmental tight-wads, or as generous, fun-loving friends… No pressure, ya’ll, but how do you think we’re doing?

Representatives

Ambassadors can negotiate a treaty or a deal;
They represent their sponsor with authority that’s real.
Folks watch them because they are the ones who have been sent,
And people make conclusions about Who they represent.
Do people see your God as petty, mean, or temperamental?
Do they conclude that He is disappointed and judgmental?
If there are false impressions about what your God would do,
Remember: God’s ambassador on earth to them is YOU.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Critics Don’t Count, but It’s the One Who Dares to Strive Who Matters

Paul gives critics the same answer that God does…read this and see if you agree:
“For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing. Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. ” (2 Corinthians 10:10-11, NIV).

critics

Paul apparently had critics when he was alive; he still has them today. Women’s rights advocates and even Christian egalitarians criticize his view of women. Our culture sees him as outdated and out of touch. In a world where we are supposed to tolerate everything, his strong stance about many issues seems harsh and unyielding. Critics abound in every culture and every forum.

But as Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Roosevelt himself faced many critics, and he knew from personal experience that endeavor and perseverance were always more substantial than armchair criticism. Today’s academics and armchair theologians are critical of Paul’s writings, which perhaps can be expected from a world that reacts against strong doctrinal stances. But it’s not just current culture that is critical of Paul– even when he was alive, he heard murmurs about his style and ability.

His critics said he wasn’t a good preacher, that he was not as impressive in person as he was in his letters. People said, “Yeah he sounds pretty tough in the things he wrote, but he’s not around, so don’t let him intimidate you.” Funny, people say the same thing about God today. His book seems pretty impressive, but where is He when I want to see him? Make him appear, show me some evidence!

Surely a loving God won’t judge sinful, independent men as harshly as the Bible says He will. Surely we can do whatever we want, and God won’t mind “that” much. Surely He is like the nice parts of the Bible and not the parts that talk about eternal separation and the lake of fire… I wonder if God would give them the same answer that Paul did: “What I am in my Book when you do not see me, I will be in my actions when you see me.” Something to think about.

For All You Critics Out There

It’s easy just to criticize, to throw some shade, to offer lies,
To try to throw someone off track, to sneak around and take the tack
Of offering innuendos and some snide remarks behind their back…
Paul’s critics said, “He seems to be an authority, but he’s absentee,
And you should really not believe in someone that you cannot see.”
Paul said he would soon return, and all his critics then would learn
That if they thought him less than strong,
Their judgment could not be more wrong,
And when he finally appeared, he would be stronger than they feared!
Hmmm… much like all of those who said,
“God is not here, He must be dead.”
I’d recommend they take a look at what is written in His Book,
And feel its depth, and read its length-
Just hear it talk about His strength!
Have faith in Who you cannot see,
For God is not an absentee,
And all within His Book will be fulfilled for all eternity.
If He were writing this today, I think, like Paul, that He might say,
“What I’ve written, although absent, I will be when I am present.”
There are those who criticize, but someday, you’ll look in His eyes,
And see the Truth, and realize that faith in Him is pretty wise…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Separated From the Love of Christ? Here’s the Most Obvious Reason Why

At one time, Saul of Tarsus hated Christians, so he must have hated Christ as well. But something changed for Saul, and he grew to believe that he could never be separated from the love he found in Jesus Christ; in fact, he made an astounding statement for a man who had pursued and persecuted followers of Jesus:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). Paul was confident that no power or opponent could separate him from Christ’s love.

separated

Think back to elementary school, where we were taught the proper way to spell by remembering that there is “a rat” in separate. Being separated from someone you love is painful; being separated from the source of all love would be impossible.

Paul’s bold statement is a powerful thought in a world where it often seems like love can let you down. It comforts me to know that God’s love will never be taken away from me. There are things in life that call us away from love, whether they are on social medial, in politics, or from haters or the media or bigots, or just bad drivers. If you watch the news, the world and its values call us to divisiveness and even hatred. When we have shallow reactions to a shallow culture, it is easy to allow oneself to be separated from the love that Christ taught.

I have found, though, that over the course of my life it has not been external influences or agents of evil that have pulled me away from the love of Christ. If I’m honest about it, there has been one thing that consistently does it, that separates me from the love and the teachings of Jesus. That something is far more insidious and closer to home than any of the evils in the world: that something is ME. I have been separated from the love of Christ by my pet sins, my selfishness, and the pull of temporary gratification.

Oliver Hazard Perry once proclaimed victory by saying, “We have met the enemy and they are ours” .His words were later humorously misquoted by the comic strip “Pogo”: “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Are you ever like that? Like Paul doing the evil he did not want to do, or Esau trading his birthright for a pot of savory stew, I have often been the one who chose to step away from the secure and endless love I find in Jesus to pursue something tawdry or temporary. How foolish we are, to step away from the joy and security of the warm, passionate, eternal love of Christ to experiment with something selfish, limited, and fake.

Tell me: what is it that causes YOU to step away from Christ’s love for the cheap thrill of a temporary fix? Chemicals? Credit? Comfort food? Golf? Bragging about your kids? Beer? Fifty Shades? That big promotion? Living in the bigger home? Paul would tell you it’s not worth it. Step back into the welcoming arms of Jesus, and make him a priority. Enjoy the comforting “love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You won’t be separated. And you won’t be sorry!

Separated by What?

The Apostle Paul had seen it all, had traveled far and near;
He spoke with Kings and Pharisees without a lick of fear.
He had been beaten, whipped and stoned, and knew all kinds of pain,
But said, “For me to live is Christ; For me to die is gain!”
He stood before the judge, and was condemned to prison twice,
But claimed no power could separate him from the love of Christ.
If Paul could make that statement after all that he’d been through,
Then it’s a powerful testimony. I believe it, too.

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
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Church Folks Back in the Day did NOT Know How to Do Church

There was a time when the Church was where everybody wanted to go, and when the church grew like wildfire: Folks who attended apparently believed you could Give Everything Up to Get Everything Back. But nobody really does church that way anymore, do they?

church

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:44-47 KJV)

In the early Church, believers were so unified that they gave up everything to live cooperative-style. They ate “with gladness and singleness of heart.” Believers praised God. And you know what? They had favor with all the people. There is a lot of truth packed into these simple verses. There are certainly some things described here about their behavior that make them a good model for churches today:

Be together. Give generously. Share with others. Eat and fellowship together. Continue with one accord– it’s about all of us, not just about “me”. Have fun Praising God! Enjoy community with outsiders, who will not only be blessed by being there but will give you props for expressing ministry in love. Take ego out of the equation. Remember that it’s not about worship style or age or gender, but it’s about putting. God. First.

There’s an old saying that it’s always amazing how much can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. And guess what? When we humble ourselves and let God do it His way, it’s even MORE amazing! It wasn’t marketing that grew the early church, or the children’s area, or even the style of worship: it was the LORD who added to church daily. We can pay attention to those things, but the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s change that old saying to: It’s amazing what can be accomplished when God alone gets the credit. Yeah, let’s try that.

Growing the Church

How do we get the church to grow? Just how do we fill the pews?
Is it putting in a new coffee bar, or a playground kids can use?
Are the demographics right, and should we move to Saturday night,
And should we change the colors on our steeple's alternating light?
The early Church's growth results were simply exponential;
So how does Church today discover all of its potential?
Here's a thought: the Church today should live in one accord,
Aware out there that serving, loving hearts are never bored, 
And let the strategy--and credit--rest upon the Lord!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Reputation Follows You: When The Bravest Man in Jerusalem met the man with the Worst Reputation

Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish zealot who aimed to stamp out the Christian movement using violence and intimidation. After he encountered Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus, he had been dramatically converted to The Way, but his reputation still intimidated everybody. That’s not too surprising, since he had recently been active killing Christians and persecuting the church… Followers of Jesus avoided him with good reason; was he just pretending to be a Christian so he could go undercover and infiltrate the inner circle? Was he actually a believer? Was he still dangerous? No one really knew…

reputation

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.” (Acts 10:26-7, KJV)  The man with the worst reputation among believers was shunned by the church, conversion or no.

Let’s make just a couple of observations: if we have been doing wrong, then even if we repent and change, our past actions have consequences. Saul, the self-described “Pharisee of the Pharisees”, had been out there persecuting and killing Christians. He had gained a reputation before his conversion, and the reputation did not go away just because he said things were different now. It took some time, and he had to demonstrate that his life had really changed.

People in church are often hesitant to associate with people who are not. There is a subtle brand of righteous insulation that takes place, and this was certainly the case with Saul! There are some church-goers who believe that if righteous Christians hang out with sinners, they might themselves be tainted with sin. That sort of logic creates a cultural divide between Christians and non-believers, and it smacks of some sort of presumed spiritual superiority for believers which doesn’t actually exist (It might be instructive to remember that the church would be empty if only perfect people got to join…)

As Saul discovered, having a change of heart doesn’t change the past. If you’ve ever wronged a loved one, and then asked for forgiveness, don’t be surprised if they are skeptical about your new attitude. It may be that you’ll have to show them that things really have changed. Saul was an outright enemy to believers, so when he told people about how he encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus, his conversion didn’t seem possible to most folks. It’s not really surprising that when he tried to join the church, he was ostracized and rejected.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if Saul had never been accepted by the church? If he had walked away, bitter and resentful? Imagine the consequences! Yet as Saul stood on the outside looking in, even when everyone was afraid of him and avoiding him, there was one man who looked beyond his fearsome reputation.

Luke says this: “But Barnabas…” In the midst of paralyzing fear, it only takes one courageous person to get things moving the right direction. Saul had been guilty of horrendous things BUT Barnabas looked beyond them. Saul was not the kind of guy you’d want to sit next to at the covered dish supper, BUT Barnabas invited him… Saul had a terrible reputation and a checkered past, BUT Barnabas took him and brought him. Saul was not accepted into the church, BUT Barnabas brought him. Barnabas somehow saw beyond Saul’s past, and shepherded him into God’s fearful family.

Without Barnabas, who knows? Perhaps Saul would never have become Paul. Perhaps an embittered and frustrated Saul might have slunk off, rejected and hurt, and gone back to persecuting Christians. What person outside of your church family is being excluded or marginalized? Who are you loving and bringing into the kingdom?

Saul to Paul by Way of Barnabas

Greeting someone new to church may seem a little small,
Unless the guest has had a wanted poster on the wall,
For persecuting Christians– yeah, a guy by the name of Saul,
Who watched as they stoned Stephen, and was feared by one and all.
But Barnabas reached out to him, and not in trepidation,
Undaunted by Saul’s former life or current reputation.
He didn’t cater to the enemy’s intimidation,
And brought Saul right into the Apostolic delegation.
The rest is history. Saul changed his life and changed his name,
And due to Barnabas, the world has never been the same.
Paul became a missionary, saved from sin and shame,
And said, “For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain!”
The next time someone comes to church who doesn’t quite fit in,
No matter what they look like, and no matter where they’ve been,
Remember Barnabas and Paul, and all that happened after all,
And realize that greeting someone is not small at all.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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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

 

Speaking Out: As for Us, We Cannot Help Speaking about What we have Seen and Heard

After Jesus was crucified, Peter and John were out speaking in public about recent events. Not everybody wanted to hear what they had to say, and in fact their religious and cultural leaders told them they had to stop speaking. Here’s how it went down:

“Then they (the Sanhedrin) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20 NIV)

speaking

Peter and John, whom Luke described as “ignorant and unlearned men”, were called before the Sanhedrin and told they needed to stop telling people about Jesus. If they didn’t stop, the Sanhedrin would take action: they could be arrested, imprisoned, perhaps even stoned. But for some reason they were not intimidated, and proclaimed boldly that they could not help but speak out about what they had seen and heard. I have often thought that the main reason Christianity is around today is because the followers of Jesus were so overwhelmed with the magnitude of what happened that they could not keep from telling people about it.

Tell me, what have YOU seen and heard? Has the good news about Jesus been validated in your life? Are you different because of it? We also find ourselves in many places and social contexts that make it feel uncomfortable or prohibitive to discuss our faith candidly and without reservation. We have separation of church and state. We are told that God has no place in our schools. More and more, God is being taken out of our public lives,,,

Should we pray at a restaurant? Should we mention our faith at work? Should we obey the current culture of tolerance, which suggests that we not offend anyone with our beliefs? Or should we speak boldly about what we have seen and heard? Every day, in so many little ways, we are faced with a choice– to be cultural or to be godly. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”! And as he wrote to the Thessalonians, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV) If you’ve seen it, you believe it. If you believe it, speak it.

Little Choices

John and Peter were rebuked for telling what they knew;
The Pharisees commanded them to stop their preaching, too!
But they replied, “We’ve said it once, we’ll say it now again,
Should we obey the Lord our God, or listen to you men?”
The Council was surprised by John and Peter’s forceful word;
They said they had to testify to what they’d seen and heard.
This story is still relevant, although it’s very old:
John and Peter’s actions should inspire us to be bold–
To speak the truth, to testify about what God has done–
Not bowing to the many, but obedient to the One.

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

 

Marvelous Men Had One Thing in Common. YOU can Be Marvelous, Too!

Wanna Be Marvelous? It doesn’t always happen by the world’s standards…
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 KJV)

marvelous

Have you ever been marveled at? In our culture, we think people are “marvelous” for all kinds of reasons, and most of those reasons are shallow and temporary. You wouldn’t think that a couple of grubby fishermen would be marvelous, but it happened…

Peter and John were fishermen by trade, and held no advanced theological degrees or education. By all rights they should have returned to Galilee after Jesus’ crucifixion and gone back to their vocation, finding good spots and hauling up nets full of fish. Yet within days of the crucifixion, they were in the religious and cultural center of Judea, way out of their depth both politically and socially. You might say that if they didn’t fall off of no turnip truck, it was because they rode it all the way into town!

They didn’t belong in the Temple anymore than a rube from the country belongs on the red carpet at the Academy Awards; yet in Jerusalem, they boldly proclaimed the gospel without fear or hesitation, and thousands of people were responding to their message that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Sanhedrin, who were the religious leaders and seminary graduates, was alarmed by their success and took counsel about how to stop this surprising movement. Luke says that these learned religious power brokers marveled at the powerful preaching from “unlearned and ignorant men”. They thought Peter and John were, yes, marvelous. What made Peter and John so amazing? Their speech was rough and they spoke with Galilean accents that identified them as hicks from the sticks. What made them “marvelous” to the learned Rabbis of the day, who surely looked down upon these two raw preachers with an air of superiority and surprise? Peter and John hadn’t been to seminary, and they weren’t clergymen or trained experts in evangelism. They weren’t even Junior College graduates. They were unlearned and ignorant, yet they were changing the world. Their common denominator is one that YOU also share. Wanna be marvelous? Spend time with Jesus.

Marvelous Men

Peter and John had never been to college,
Yet they astounded people with their knowledge.
No seminary, no advanced degrees,
But they contended with the Pharisees.
The only thing about them folks could tell
Was that their Rabbi taught them really well;
They had no other formal education,
And fishing was their background and vocation,
But they were marvelous. As ignorant men,
Uneducated by the standards then,
They may have seemed to be a bit too rough,
But they had been with Jesus. That’s enough.

 

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

 

Here’s a Refreshing Thought: The Righteous Judge May See You Differently Than You Think

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NIV)

refreshing
Peter’s exhortation to onlookers in Acts 3 echoes his sermon in Acts 2, and it contains a simple message that resonated through the prophets, the Gospels, and the book of Acts: Repent! It’s the kind of dramatic message that calls us to make drastic changes and live differently. But do we really like listening to this kind of sermon?

I know he preached repentance, and I know we are supposed to turn away from our sin. It’s what Peter preached, it’s what John the Baptist preached, and it’s even what Jesus preached as he initiated his public ministry. (So, it’s in the New Testament a LOT.)

Maybe like most people, I don’t always embrace repentance the way I could or should. If somebody tells me I need to repent then it means I am doing something wrong, and if I accept the admonition to repent it implies that I need correction, and am failing somehow. It seems like a drastic admission and a drastic move, especially in a public setting where I have to broadcast my failure to everyone.

And for the record, these sermons weren’t feel-good platitudes, they were personal challenges that shook people up and called for immediate response, right there in front of God and everybody. Peter meant business. The image of the crazy guy with a beard holding a sign on the street corner comes to mind: REPENT! Do we take repentance as seriously as they did in Acts? It’s really kind of scary to consider making a public statement like that…

refreshing

I’ve always been focused on the negative side of that equation: I’m doing wrong, so I have to change. I need to do business with God. God is mad at me and I better give up my evil ways or I will pay the price. But I hadn’t really noticed part “B”—the result of repentance, “so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Our motivation to repent doesn’t have to focus exclusively on the negative.

Yes we need to humble ourselves, to keep it real, and to be honest before the Lord. But instead of thinking about repentance as what we need to turn FROM, maybe we should remember who we are turning TO. Peter says that we should repent to clear the decks, to have our sins wiped out, to BE REFRESHED. What, exactly, does that mean? “Times of refreshing from the Lord”?

Think about the upside of repentance: a cold drink in the shade in the middle the desert, or a taste of mint after something bitter. Imagine a delicious breeze on a muggy day, a freshening wind that invigorates and cools, blowing away the humidity and the stale, stagnant air of inactivity… Imagine newborn joy, fresh delight, first love… those are the fruits of repentance. Maybe the crazy guy on the street corner needs to be holding a sign that says, REFRESH! That’s what awaits us. Had a tough week? Repent! Been slogging through a hard time? Repent! Bored, tired, stale, impatient, dissatisfied? You know what to do…

Repentance is Refreshing?

When I think “repent” I think of brokenness and sin;
I think of feeling guilty for the mess I’ve gotten in.
I often think of standing there before the Righteous Judge,
Afraid that in my sentencing, from judgment He won’t budge!
I think about repenting, (I confess it has me stressing),
Forgetting that the Prodigal Father loves to offer blessing,
And loves to throw away my guilt to offer me refreshing!
When we approach the Father with a heart of true repentance,
Remember that He longs to put refreshment in your sentence.
No matter where you’ve run from God, if you will just repent,
He’ll offer you His open arms, and you’ll be glad you went.

 

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

 

Turn Around: the non-Sailor’s Guide to Repentance

Bob Seger has a song titled “Running Against the Wind”, which laments the transient and sometimes difficult nature of life. The Bible comments on that very subject: If you’re sailing against the wind, Turn That Boat Around! At least that’s what John the Baptist told his audiences at the beginning of his ministry… In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2 NIV)

John wasn’t preaching some casual message about being a little sorry for what you had done. He was issuing a challenge to a people who lived by the law to a fanatical degree, who sought righteousness through legalism, and who probably saw themselves as righteous already. The average Israelite in John’s day probably did not see themselves as having very much to repent FROM. “Did I take too many steps on the Sabbath? Did I do something that made me unclean? After all, I am a pretty righteous guy!” And yet John called these practitioners of self-righteousness to turn away from sin and REPENT. He said the Kingdom of Heaven did not involve self-righteousness, but a whole different approach. He was challenging his listeners to change their lives by changing their direction.

turn

The Greek word metanoeo literally means to have a change of heart, but it was also used as a sailing term to describe coming about, and sailing back in the opposite direction. Sailors would use it to describe how a boat could “turn away, go the other direction.” This meant the boat had to reverse its course, tack against the wind, and make a commitment to head 180 degrees back the other way. It meant altering your course, and it involved full commitment to the new heading.

Ever get frustrated? Ever feel selfish? Ever experience a lack of love? Repent! Change your approach! Turn around and travel the opposite direction from where you are currently headed. John the Baptist preached it; Jesus proclaimed this message repeatedly in the gospels; so did Paul. It must mean something important in the Kingdom of Heaven, right? So, ask yourself: what do you need to repent FROM? And, Where are you sailing TO? Is it time for you to turn around?

Turnabout is Fair Play

John the Baptist preached this sermon everywhere he went;
Jesus preached it, too: He called on people to REPENT!
They called on men to turn around, to make a brand new start,
And change their lives by changing what they had inside their hearts.
Repentance meant to come about, to sail the other way–
To do things differently tomorrow than you did today.
If you have run from God, or balked at having His protection,
REPENT! And make your way back in the opposite direction!
When you repent, I think you’ll find your vessel needs less bailing;
There will be smoother seas in the direction you are sailing.
Turn about. You’ll find the Father loving you–not hating–
And as you head for home, you’ll find He has safe harbor waiting.

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